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October 25, 2014

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As big weekend beckons visitors — and criminals — to Strip, police offer tips to avoid being a target

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Steve Marcus

Undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. signs autographs for fans as he arrives at the MGM Grand Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. Mayweather will face Canelo Alvarez of Mexico in a WBC/WBA 154-pound title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 14. Alvarez is also undefeated with one draw.

Highly anticipated boxing match? Check. More tourists? Check. More crime? Possibly.

Authorities are asking Strip-goers to hold their belongings extra tight this weekend along Las Vegas Boulevard, which is expected to be packed with people in town to watch undefeated champions Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez face off Saturday night.

If a championship prizefight isn’t enough of a draw, thousands of people also are expected all weekend for events commemorating Mexican Independence Day, which is Monday.

“Any time you have an increase of people on the Strip, you’ll have an increase of crooks,” said Metro Police Capt. Robert DuVall, whose area command includes the Strip. “It never fails.”

Big events lure some criminals to the Strip. Other criminals simply seize on opportunities, such as stealing a purse left unattended, DuVall said.

Violent incidents on the Strip, fortunately, are rare, DuVall said. The most common crime is theft — whether it’s petty larceny or robbery.

Robberies in Metro’s Convention Center Area Command, which includes the Strip, are up roughly 18 percent compared with this time last year, DuVall said. Assaults have increased almost 17 percent, but burglaries are down 3.5 percent. Sexual assaults have neither increased nor decreased from a year ago, he said.

Who’s most likely to be a victim of crime?

“The person that gets picked on the most is the (one) who is intoxicated the most and alone,” DuVall said.

As the weekend festivities kick off, police offer these safety tips to both seasoned locals and fresh-to-Vegas tourists:

    • Stay hydrated

      It might sound like a no-brainer, but many people think that because they’re drinking alcohol or staying cool in a pool, they don’t need water. False.

      “The alcohol takes effect sooner and stronger” without proper hydration, DuVall said. “Stay hydrated even when it starts to cool off.”

    • Stick with a group

      Sure, this is the advice every child has heard from a parent, but the rule especially applies in Las Vegas, police say. In fact, the Las Vegas Rape Crisis Center and police department have a “Party Smart” campaign that specifically touts this safety motto.

      And even if you’re wandering with a group, don’t forget to bring a cellphone just in case of an emergency — or if you get split up.

      “If you get lost, go to security,” DuVall said. “Inside every hotel are security officers who can help.”

    • After age 21, gambling problems are more common than alcoholism, the University of Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions found in analyzing data from two national studies.

      Be money smart

      Carrying wads of cash and multiple credit or debit cards makes tourists walking targets for crooks, police say.

      One remedy is this: Bring a card with a smaller credit limit that’s attached to your account and leave other money sources locked safely in a hotel room.

      If the credit card gets stolen or lost, thieves won’t be able to drain your bank account. Doing so also could prevent reckless, drunken spending.

      “When you’re sober, you can transfer money back to that account,” DuVall said.

    • The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department carries out a highly visible arrest saturation targeting prostitution on the Las Vegas Strip late night in June 2006.

      Avoid prostitutes

      Yes, prostitution is illegal in Clark County, but police admit that’s often not enough to keep people away from the business of ill repute.

      Aside from committing a crime, however, it also poses a safety hazard since many prostitutes have turned to theft as a way to supplement their income.

      Many prostitutes will lure an intoxicated man back to his hotel room, wait until he falls asleep and then steal his belongings, DuVall said. These so-called “trick rolls” also occur in vehicles.

      “There may have been a day when everyone left happy, but today it’s all about theft,” DuVall said.

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