Thursday, June 9, 2011 | 2 a.m.
The people clustered in Metro Police’s Downtown Area Command conference room Wednesday morning probably didn’t know one another very well.
They sat at a U-shaped table with cards identifying them and their businesses or organizations: Catholic Charities, U.S. Marshals, El Cortez and the Mexican Consulate, just to name a few.
But when they spoke, they shared similar concerns — graffiti, copper theft, discarded alcohol cans — in an area where they are all stakeholders of some sort: downtown Las Vegas near Fremont Street. They’re members of the Crime Free Corridor, a Metro-initiated program among police, businesses and organizations near Fremont Street to combat crime in the area.
“When we have the community involved, it helps us,” Metro Capt. Michael Dalley told the group. “We’ve learned we can’t arrest our way out of issues.”
The program began in September as a new approach to deter crime in an area stretching from Main Street on the west to 15th Street on the east and bound to the north and south by Ogden and Carson avenues, respectively.
Since its inception, police said crime in the Downtown Area Command’s jurisdiction has decreased: 27 percent fewer violent crimes and 14 percent fewer property crimes compared with this time last year. Robberies alone are down 29 percent, police said.
Dalley described the program’s recent efforts as a “kind of boots-on-the-ground mentality,” meaning more foot and bike patrols and awareness among business owners to prevent crime.
Police installed security cameras at several intervals along Fremont Street, which helped detectives investigating the double homicide Monday at the nearby Sunflower Apartments, Dalley said.
“This isn’t a whole Metro thing,” Dalley said. “It’s all of us. We can’t take credit for everything.”
For instance, the program spurred more collaboration between Metro and El Cortez management, who share images from their outdoor and parking garage surveillance cameras. Police credit those images with helping them nab several criminals.
“It’s big brother,” said Dion Stephens, director of security at El Cortez. “If we don’t partner up, we’re not going to correct the problems on the street.”
Graffiti, drugs and gangs have long been the issues plaguing the Fremont Street area, Dalley said.
The area is a work in progress, but it’s also not the crime-riddled destination that has been its perception for years, said Mike Nolan, El Cortez general manager.
“We’re seeing some of these businesses fill,” he said. “That’s because people are feeling safe, and they’re coming back to the area.”
The city recently passed an ordinance aimed at minimizing problems posed by street performers, or “buskers” as they’re known, in the Fremont Street Experience area, Dalley said. The ordinance bans them from performing in certain areas, limits what they can bring and only permits them to accept tips, he said.
At the Wednesday meeting, Crime Free Corridor members voiced concerns about graffiti and copper thefts and then brainstormed how to proceed. About two dozen people attended the meeting.
“We have our core group that are here,” Dalley said. “Most people are jumping on board. They see the results, the benefits of it.”