- Las Vegas is bolstering its security measures for its New Year’s Eve celebrations on the Strip, which more than 300,000 people are expected to attend.
- The heightened security comes in the wake of a deadly mass shooting three months ago, in which a gunman opened fire on concertgoers from a nearby hotel.
- Las Vegas has received assistance from the Department of Homeland Security, including extra officers, snipers, a hostage rescue team, and helicopters.
Three months after a gunman rained bullets on a country music festival in Las Vegas, the city is preparing for more than 300,000 people to descend on the Strip to celebrate New Year’s Eve – and scores of local and federal officers will be there in the hopes of preventing another massacre.
For the first time in the city’s history, the Department of Homeland Security has given Las Vegas’s New Year’s Eve festivities its top special assessment rating, a designation that comes with extra resources like federal officers, intelligence, snipers, an FBI hostage rescue team, and helicopters with tactical security forces, The New York Times reported.
The October 1 massacre, which killed 58 and left hundreds injured, was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, and has served as a warning to large cities hosting major public events that could be seen as targets.
In an effort to combat that threat, cities like Las Vegas and New York have bolstered their security plans for New Year’s Eve, when celebrations are expected to draw hundreds of thousands of revelers.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, for instance, said it will deploy every single officer to work a shift between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
“We need to be able to focus on multiple shooters, on one or more above the ground – we’ve got to multiply our forces,” Chief Chris Jones told The Times.
He added that more than 5,000 officers will be placed along the Strip, and nearly all of the four miles it comprises will be closed to traffic.
‘Out of an abundance of caution’
The New York Police Department, too, is sending in rooftop observation teams and counter-snipers into buildings to spot or disarm any high-rise shooters taking aim at the crowds watching the ball drop in Times Square, The Times reported.
The NYPD, keenly aware of recent terrorist attacks in New York City, are sending out Labrador retrievers that can smell explosive particles on would-be suicide bombers, like the man who partially detonated a makeshift bomb in one of the city’s underground passageways earlier this month.
The NYPD is also placing sand trucks around Times Square to prevent vehicle attacks, like the one that killed eight people on Halloween after a driver plowed his rented pickup truck down a lower Manhattan bike path.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said at a press conference Thursday there were no direct, credible threats to the city’s New Year’s Eve events, but the security measures were being tightened regardless.
“Out of an abundance of caution, however, you’ll see a stronger police presence out there than we’ve seen even in recent years,” O’Neill said.