Although violent crimes in Las Vegas have dropped for the past several years, one violent crime continues to steadily rise: sexual assault.
In a news conference on recently released crime statistics for Las Vegas and surrounding areas, Sheriff Doug Gillespie of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department attibutes “very hard work” to the decrease in violent crimes in Las Vegas.
Overall, violent crimes have decreased 15 percent since 2005, even with three years of economic depression where violent crimes traditionally rise. The one exception: sexual assaults, which saw an increase of almost 16%.
University of Nevada Las Vegas Criminal Justice Professor William Sousa alleged sexual assaults are notoriously difficult to prevent and most of the investigations are reactive to crimes which have already been committed.
Researchers discovered the nature of sex crimes in Las Vegas varies greatly by location, meaning there is no single “fix it” solution which would work valley wide. For example, most sexual assault victims in Las Vegas were adults, but in some neighborhoods in Clark County, the majority of victims were juveniles.
Sousa said the location-specific information can be used by police officers in different areas to help educate the community, including school workers, nightclub managers, pastors and other community leaders of the problems in their areas and ways to counter and prevent them.
“I don’t think any specific findings were a complete surprise to police officers,” Sousa said. “But with this knowledge, area commanders have access to people in their communities who can be very proactive. If there’s a high number of family crime(s), you talk to the principals. If it’s on the Strip, you talk to the hotels.”
Whether the new approach, developed in October and now being implemented, will lead to a major drop in sexual assault crimes has yet to be seen.
Speaking at a news conference, Sheriff Gillespie, who was flanked by captains of Metro’s eight area commands, acknowledged policing takes more of a strategic, managerial approach than in previous years. New strategies have been applied in all areas of police work – not just for dissecting sexual assaults.
“We look at the gamut,” said Gillespie. “We look at it from top to bottom.”
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department reports a 64 percent decrease in auto thefts, 24 percent decrease in homicides, 17 percent decrease in robberies and a 36 percent decrease in assaults with firearms over the past five years. The homicide rate in 2010 was 115, far lower than the record of 157 in 2006.
Gillespie attributed the success of lower crime rates to having more officers on the streets, better internal strategies and increased communication with the public.
“But make no mistake,” he said. “We are not satisfied.”