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Nashville attack sharpens Vegas New Year’s security concerns

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A smaller crowd of New Year’s revelers is expected in Las Vegas this year because of the pandemic, but police said Tuesday they’re not scaling back their operations, especially after a Christmas Day explosion in downtown Nashville last week.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police are planning to conduct several security sweeps of downtown Las Vegas and the casino-lined Strip in the coming days and on New Year’s Eve, in addition to other beefed-up security measures.

The city has had heightened security on New Year’s Eve for several years following the 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, where a gunman killed 58 people and injured more than 850 at an open-air music festival.

The security concerns for Las Vegas were sharpened last week when a Christmas Day explosion in downtown Nashville killed a bomber, injured three other people and damaged dozens of buildings.

“We’ve very aware of what happened in Nashville. While there seems to be one man that acted by himself, we never chance anything,” Deputy Chief Kelly McMahill of the Las Vegas police said Tuesday at a news conference.

Las Vegas typically sees more than 330,000 people out celebrating on New Year’s Eve. This year, a signature fireworks show from the rooftops of the Strip casino-resorts has been canceled, along with most of the concerts and live entertainment. Inside casinos, capacity is being limited to 25% occupancy and public gatherings are capped by the governor at 50 people.

Despite the strict rules and the risk of COVID-19 spreading, tens of thousands of people are expected to mark the new year on the Strip or downtown. McMahill said it’s difficult to predict how many people will show up but said her rough estimate is 200,000 people.

As they did last year, police will have at least 1,200 officers on the Las Vegas Strip and 200 in the downtown Freemont Street district, in addition to officers on duty throughout the valley.

As they have in past years, authorities also plan to put up 4,000 barricades, ban large bags and glass and close the Strip to vehicle traffic. The closures from the Mandalay Bay resort to Spring Mountain Road will start at 7:30 p.m.

The closures are the best way to keep the Strip safe, McMahill said, and police are not concerned about whether the closures might encourage people to get out of their cars and form crowds.

“People are going to come and knowing that they’re going to come here, it’s our job to keep them as safe as possible, while keeping our own officers safe,” she said.

Police plan to continue their work months-long effort to crack down on large, illegal parties being held at short-term rental homes, something that’s been on the rise this year as bars and clubs have closed due to the coronavirus.