How COVID-19 Has Changed Policing In Southern Nevada

With the Strip shut down and the streets nearly empty because of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus, has policing become easier or more difficult?

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Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill told KNPR’s State of Nevada that homicides are down from the same time last year, fatal accidents are even but there has been an increase in robberies and aggravated assaults, which includes domestic violence.

McMahill dispelled a common rumor that has been popping up on social media about an increase in home invasion robberies by people pretending to be from the health district or another service.

“We started to investigate the rumor that was going around,” he said, “Right now, we’re not seeing evidence that that is occurring.”

He said they have a team that keeps an eye out for reports of crimes that sounds similar in nature. If there is a series of crimes with similar details, they investigate to see if there is a problem, and so far, that is not happening.

The department did see a 6 percent drop in the number of calls for service. McMahill believes the drop is due to the closure of the Strip and other casinos around the city. He said calls for service for those areas account for about 6 percent of the department’s calls.

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There is one thing that has not fallen since the outbreak began and that is traffic accidents. McMahill said with nearly empty streets people are speeding

“I’ll make an appeal to the people listening today – slow down,” he said, “One of the things that we continue to see is that with less cars on the road that speeds are increasing. The accidents are remaining the same number basically that we would have with all of the other cars back out on the road.”

McMahill said speeding citations have risen even fewer cars on the road.

One of the biggest concerns with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus has been jails and detention centers because even on their best days they’re crowded with people.

McMahill said the Clark County Detention Center is taking unprecedented steps to keep the jail free of the virus.

“We have the disinfection stations out there. We’re taking the temperature of not only the employees that are coming, vendors at the jail but also the inmates,” he said, “If any of them are presenting with any of the fever or any of the challenges that we see, taking the guidance from CDC, then we’re doing alternate bookings.”

He said the department has also limited its misdemeanor bookings to just arrests that are dictated by law, including DUI and domestic violence. They’re also sending some inmates to house arrest if they display flu-like symptoms.

The officers in the field are using gloves and masks when needed. When the masks ran out, McMahill said several private casinos, which had them stockpiled, gave them to the department.

So far, no Metro Police officers have tested positive for the virus but McMahill said 45 are in isolation or self-quarantined over concerns about exposure and 180 have filled out reports about possible exposure.

The department has closed some aspects of their work like the record rooms and the front offices of area commands. They’ve also started taking the temperatures of workers in the dispatch center.

While Metro is doing the best it can under the circumstances, the future is uncertain. The drop in tax revenue for the state because of the closure will be significant.

McMahill said the economic impact on local governments, which is where department funding comes from, could be more severe than the Great Recession.

“This coming financial crisis for local government is going to have a much larger impact than the last recession did,” he said “That is going to have a tremendous impact on what that looks like in our ability to police this community with employees.”



Undersheriff Kevin McMahill, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

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