How Las Vegas Police Struggle With Homicide Increase

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Detectives in Las Vegas pride themselves on a good track record for solving homicides, clearing nearly eight in every 10 cases while many other large police departments struggle to solve half of their murders. Like other big cities, Las Vegas is in the midst of a dramatic rise in homicides. That is testing whether the 19 homicide detectives at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department can keep solving those crimes as new cases come up, the New York Times reports, “from parks awash in heroin, from streets where gang allies are quick to draw their guns, and from poor neighborhoods that lie just blocks from the shimmering casinos of the Strip.”

The nation’s murder total, which has declined sharply for the last 20 years, rose nearly 11 percent last year, the largest single-year jump in nearly 50 years. In Las Vegas, the victims are a mix of African Americans, whites, and Latinos who have been killed during robberies, gang shootings, drug disputes and domestic violence incidents. For homicide detectives, the most disturbing factor may be that much of the killing is being committed by teenagers and men in their early 20s, many of whom do not understand the consequences of engaging in violence. “You find out there was a minor altercation and someone pulled out a gun,” said Lt. Daniel McGrath, who heads the police homicide section. “They are so quick to resort to violence that it goes from profanity to shooting.” As homicides have swelled to 125 so far this year — a 27 percent increase over 2015 — detectives have watched caseloads grow to five or six apiece. The pace of the killings has been relentless, even for veteran detectives, who have seen the number creep steadily upward, from 84 in 2012, and are spending more of their time at crime scenes.

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