LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) — Violent crimes are up. As of March 8, 2016, Las Vegas saw a 67% hike in homicides, compared to the same time last year. The police unions are saying a historic change in policing is to blame, while Metro Police say that change is providing resources to fight crime and the increase in crime aligns with the national trend, not because of the new policing model.
The new model dissolves traditional investigative units like gangs and narcotics and disperses some of their detectives into police substations. Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts says the purpose is to give each substation that expertise and allow each area the flexibility to address their own problems. 8 months into Metro's new decentralized model of policing, he says they've shortened police response time in investigations, down from up to a week to as little as one or two days.
"Now we have area commanders at every area command focused on the gang problem in their area, more so than they were before. They have the resources to do that and they're doing that... The purpose of decentralizing those units was to give each of those commands a portion of those detectives so they could build that expertise and address those issues. Did we keep some centralized component? Yes, for intelligence gathering. We need that," he said. "It's proven to be effective. It's better for the community, better response from detectives."
Mark Chaparian, Executive Director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, blames this new policy for an uptick in violent crime. Detectives specializing in one area are now being pulled to investigate crimes outside of their expertise. He says without traditional and investigative units that have detectives with years of experience working one specialty, there won't be as many contacts and tips for preventing crime.
"If you believe like I do, gang activity and prostitution and narcotics are correlated with violent crimes, you would think twice about that. We don't have a gang enforcement unit any longer. We don't have a street team for narcotics any longer, and my understanding is vice was told to stay out of the casinos and hotels," said Chaparian.
Roberts claims there are still detectives who concentrate on drug and gang investigations. In fact, he says after decentralization, their gang prosecutions have tripled.
Chaparian says there are solvability issues, especially with a recent violent crimes initiative on top of the policing model. The violent crimes initiative is aimed to curb crime through increased police presence. It'll put some of the specialty detectives now at area commands out on patrol for two weeks at a time. 70 of the 600 detectives from all departments will help patrol areas until new recruits are ready to go out in the field. Roberts says this is only temporary and that he should have a permanent solution within 2 months. He adds what they found in the past, is putting more uniformed officers out on the streets deters crime and lowers crime numbers.
"We are equally spreading the burden amongst them... all we're asking to do is everybody pitch in. Give our patrol force some relief because right now calls for service is up. Crime is up, and they're working their tails off," said Roberts. "We are trying to put more focus on preventing crime on the front end, rather than solving the crime on the back end."
Lt. John Faulis, the chairman of the Las Vegas Metro Police Managers & Supervisors Association, says this initiative does not fix the problem, and actually deters progress in response time.
"The problematic thing is now, with the violent crimes initiative, if we're pulling those same detectives responsible for those cases if they're gone for 2-3 weeks, how have we increased the speed at which they're investigating those?" he said.
Chaparian adds putting detectives out on patrol is also a safety issue. He wants to clarify, they don't have a problem stepping up and helping out.
"When you take officers and some of them have not been working in a traditional uniform, some of them up to two decades, all of a sudden the solution is to take them out of their investigative units who have a caseload and put them in a patrol car, and tell them you're going to have to catch up, you're on a learning curve. A steep learning curve for some of them," said Chaparian. "Some of these folks haven't been up to date with their car training, some of them were not offered to have a Taser... they're not familiar with the computer systems in the car."
That will put detectives at a disadvantage, he says.
"It's causing a safety concern for our officers. People who don't usually complain are calling our office and they're in fear."
Roberts says, an interview with News 3 was the first he's heard of the concern about some detectives not having Tasers or updated training. He says he'll make sure 70 Tasers are available for the 70 detectives who'll patrol during their 2 weeks.