Eds: Expands throughout. With AP photos. With AP Photos.
LAS VEGAS (AP) — An unprecedented number of law enforcement officers and National Guard members will be on duty when tens of thousands of people gather to ring in 2018 on the Las Vegas Boulevard, just three months after one of the world’s most famous roadways became associated with the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department will have every officer working Sunday, while the Nevada National Guard is activating about 350 soldiers and airmen after lawmakers earlier this month approved tripling the state funding for the event’s security measures. The federal government is also sending dozens of personnel to assist with intelligence and other efforts.
“I’m confident every available resource is being used to make sure this New Year’s Eve will be safe,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said during a news conference Wednesday.
Tourism officials expect about 330,000 to come to Las Vegas for the festivities that are anchored by a roughly eight-minute firework display at the top of seven of the destination’s casino-hotels. The show will start 10 seconds before midnight Sunday at the Stratosphere. The other firing locations are at the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently upgraded the city’s New Year’s Eve on its list of special events that due to its economic or social impact, length and attendance could be potential targets of criminal activity. For the first time, the celebration was ranked in the highest category, which also includes the Super Bowl.
The designation of the Special Event Assessment Rating 1 leads to a substantial increase in federal resources. Lombardo said the assistance will include intelligence personnel who will analyze social media and other information, medical technicians and helicopters.
The change in rating was not a direct result of the mass shooting carried out by a high-stakes gambler on Oct. 1. The man killed 58 people and injured hundreds more after he shattered the windows of his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino on the Strip and unleashed gunfire on a country music festival below. He then killed himself.
Lombardo said no specific threat to the festivities has been discovered. Snipers will be posted for the first time during the event. Buses and other large vehicles will block key intersections to try to prevent anyone from plowing onto crowds.
Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said crews have installed nearly 800 steel posts along the Las Vegas Strip. The bollards are capable of withstanding a head-on collision from a 15,000-pound (6804-kilogram) vehicle traveling at 50 mph (80 kph). The county plans to install an additional 7,500.
The number of National Guard soldiers and airmen activated in connection with Sunday’s festivities is more than double compared to last year. They will be at several locations, including McCarran International Airport. A legislative committee approved almost $357,000 to cover the cost.
The control center for the show, located at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, will be staffed by officials from Clark County’s building and fire prevention department, fire department, police, Federal Aviation Administration, the fireworks company and organizers. Wind conditions are monitored. Sustained wind speeds that exceed 10 miles per hour can lead to the show’s cancellation.
The expected visitation figures provided by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority shows a drop of 1.2 percent compared to last year. Visitors are expected to spend $254.3 million. More than 97 percent of the city’s nearly 149,000 hotel and motel rooms are expected to be booked.
Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO