Faced with policing an ever-expanding metropolis, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie in Las Vegas is eyeing changes on two fronts to tackle growth both inside county borders and the county jail, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The sheriff said yesterday there is a “strong possibility” he will ask the state legislature to approve an additional quarter-cent sales tax to hire more police officers. Gillespie credited the more than 250 officers hired under the first phase of the More Cops initiative, which raised the sales tax by a quarter cent, with helping to cut the overall crime rate last year, including drops in homicides, robberies, rapes and traffic deaths. The second phase of the tax will be needed by 2010 to hire enough officers to maintain the crime-fighting successes amid the county’s population boom, he said.
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said officials must address the consequences of putting more police on the streets. More police means more arrests, which means more pressure on courts, jails and the rest of the criminal justice system, she said. When it comes to jail beds, Gillespie is looking for alternatives. His representatives have been in preliminary talks with state Department of Corrections officials about renting the 600-bed prison in Jean, which is slated to close by summer because of state budget cuts. For years, the Clark County Detention Center has been in a state of perpetual overcrowding. The jail in downtown Las Vegas regularly holds 100 to 400 more inmates than its 2,957-bed capacity, forcing the extra inmates to sleep on cots in common areas.