News & Comment » Nation & World

Rooftop Snipers. Helicopters. A Hostage Team. Las Vegas Gears Up for New Year’s Eve

by

The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, from which a lone gunman's barrage left at least 59 dead and more than 500 injured, in Las Vegas, Oct. 3, 2017. Specialists in police training said the Las Vegas massacre would alter tactics in mass shootings to focus on the threat posed by high-rise or long-distance snipers. - ERIC THAYER/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Eric Thayer/The New York Times
  • The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, from which a lone gunman's barrage left at least 59 dead and more than 500 injured, in Las Vegas, Oct. 3, 2017. Specialists in police training said the Las Vegas massacre would alter tactics in mass shootings to focus on the threat posed by high-rise or long-distance snipers.

By JENNIFER MEDINA
© 2017 New York Times News Service

LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas is preparing for its first New Year’s Eve since the Oct. 1 shooting, when Stephen Paddock shot hundreds of rounds from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, killing more than 50 people and wounding hundreds of others. For decades, Dec. 31 has been the biggest night of the year in Las Vegas, drawing tourists from all over the world.

Security has always been a concern. But this year, the preparations have taken on a more urgent tone. In trainings and drills, officers are being urged to consider the possibility of shootings from elevated positions. They are coordinating with medical personnel from the fire department, forming teams who will be ready to respond on the Strip and downtown if there is any kind of mass attack.

Homeland Security officials have classified the night as a top safety priority, sending snipers who will be poised on hotel rooftops, helicopters with tactical security forces, and a hostage rescue team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. National Guard officers will also be stationed throughout the area, including at the nearby airport.

For years, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department had lobbied federal officials to give New Year’s Eve the Department of Homeland Security’s top special event assessment rating, which would provide the city with federal officers and resources like intelligence and helicopter teams. A few weeks after the October shooting, the Police Department got word that they would receive the rating for the first time this year.

“We need to be able to focus on multiple shooters, on one or more above ground — we’ve got to multiply our forces,” said Chief Chris Jones, who is overseeing the department’s preparations. Jones estimated that there would be more than 5,000 local and federal officers along the Strip. Nearly the entire length — roughly 4 miles — will be closed to traffic.

About 330,000 visitors are expected on the Strip for New Year’s Eve, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said. The number is down slightly from last year, though officials said it could still rise.