Las Vegas Area Touts Advances in High-Tech Policing

Officials say that new police technologies such as license plate readers, facial recognition and drone surveillance have led to a drop in crime in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s jurisdiction.

by Ricardo Torres-Cortez, Las Vegas Sun / July 26, 2019
Las Vegas is partnering with the state and NTT to collect and study transportation and safety data across a more than 30-block area in the aim of predicting and preventing problems before they happen. Shutterstock

(TNS) — Policing has drastically changed since Joe Lombardo joined the force. Early in his tenure, the Clark County, Nev., sheriff recalls technology was limited to clunky and simple computers installed in cruisers.

Case in point: In a spacious ballroom Wednesday afternoon, a drone buzzed above, a surveillance system broadcast attendees, and Sgt. Kyle Downie spoke about license plate reading and facial recognition technology. A robot’s arm spun around.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department personnel, and donors alike, had gathered at Red Rock Resort for the fourth-annual “Lunch with the Sheriff,” where Lombardo touted the Clark County agency’s achievements, including a dip in crime.

Overall violent acts in Metro’s jurisdiction were down 12% compared with the same time period last year, Lombardo said. Twenty-nine fewer victims were slain in the same period, he added. Traffic-related deaths plunged some 20%.

Property crime dropped 5%, he said.

The luncheon was organized by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Foundation — Metro’s fundraising arm — which solicits private money to supplement where government falls short.

One of its big projects is the building of a reality-based training facility in the northeast valley that will serve first responding agencies in the region. The foundation has raised about half of the $25 million in private donations sought for the first phase.

The ultimate goal is safety, for community members and cops, Lombardo said.

The foundation also funds community events, such as Trunk or Treat during Halloween and Santa Cops during the winter holiday. It has provided money for scholarships, too.

Technology has become an essential force multiplier for the department, Lombardo said.

When he got hired, Lombardo said, police hardly relied on technology. Now with significant increases in population and calls for service, it’s like the cops can’t do their job without it.

“We embrace it because it’s a force multiplier,” he said, “a lot cheaper than a police officer.”

Before the luncheon, donors had a chance to interact with police at several stations set up by different Metro bureaus.

At the fusion watch display, Downie mentioned the roughly 450 Metro cameras spread across the tourist corridor and other parts of the valley. More are expected in the Chinatown area and near the NFL stadium when it’s built, he said.

The cameras, whose feeds are received at the Southern Nevada Fusion Counterterrorism Center at Metro headquarters, allow police to patrol remotely, giving officers responding to incidents real-time information.

Metro has begun using license-plate readers, which came in handy during a recent fatal hit-and-run crash. A facial recognition program, as well as a gunshot detection program, are in pilot stages, Downie said.

At the SWAT station, Melanie O'Daniel — the first female commander in the unit’s history — explained how drone technology has advanced. She spoke about how the aircraft are now small enough that they could navigate inside buildings, broadcasting infrared images when needed.

Police dogs also made an appearance at the ballroom Wednesday. In a demonstration, a Metro K9 officer released a dog that dug its teeth into the padded material protecting another officer.

The crowd clapped while the now-leashed dog pranced out of frame. “Good boy,” said the officer who led it out.

©2019 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. 

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