Las Vegas has a dirty underbelly. For decades, that was sort of part of the charm. The city, like New Orleans, had glitz and glamour, but also its fair share of crime, homelessness, and questionable characters.
That’s not as readily evident today as land on the Las Vegas Strip has become so expensive, it’s largely dominated by massive resorts and casinos, big-name restaurants, and high-end shopping. At least on the south and central section of the Strip where Caesars Entertainment (CZR) – Get Free Report and MGM Resorts International dominate, glitz and glamour now rule the day.
Kitschy Strip stops like the Diamond Inn Motel and the Hawaiian Marketplace have closed in order to make way for much fancier resort casinos and/or high-end shopping and dining. The same thing will happen next year at Casino Royale, the last of the old-school small-time casinos operating in the shadow of Caesars and MGM’s mega-resorts when it’s replaced by a much bigger resort casino.
Las Vegas, however, can’t hide its homeless people. They’re everywhere on the Strip, sometimes sleeping, and, in other cases, hustling by selling water, asking for money, or trying other ways to part tourists from a little bit of money.
Some of Las Vegas’ homeless population lives in tunnels under the city. That’s a dangerous choice as those tunnels flood multiple times a year, but the tunnels do offer shelter from the sun, and a place to sleep.
During November’s Las Vegas Grand Prix Formula 1 race, however, the Las Vegas Police Department cleared out the tunnels below the Las Vegas Strip. That was a very controversial move given that no extra services, or bussing to shelters were offered.
The Las Vegas Strip will be packed with people during the Super Bowl weekend.
Image source: Daniel Kline/TheStreet
Las Vegas police plan another tunnel clearout
“A series of interconnected concrete flood channels ushers stormwater beneath the Las Vegas Strip to Lake Mead from its origin in the mountains west of Las Vegas. Known to local Las Vegans as ‘the tunnels,’ they are bone dry between storms, when they house a population thought to swell to around 1,000 people,” Casino.org reported.
Ostensibly, police are clearing out the tunnels as a safety measure. Over F1 weekend, the move was made after signs were posted to alert the people who call the tunnels home that they were being kicked out.
“These tunnels are scheduled for shutdown during the Formula 1 event. On November 15, a tactical unit will clear them of any human presence. After that, the tunnels will be shut down and no one will be allowed access until the event ends on November 20, 2023.”
This time, the police, likely after advocates for the homeless population pushed back, have decided to take a less cold approach.
“Police said they will make in-person announcements about their upcoming sweep and offer other housing options to the displaced. They will remove all barriers to tunnel entry following the Super Bowl,” a second Casino.org article reported.
Tunnel move follows a controversial Las Vegas Strip law
In mid-January, a new law went into effect on the Las Vegas Strip that made it illegal to stand still in certain places. The law was not created to arrest people for taking pictures or stopping to tie their shoes, it was passed in order to give police a tool to prevent gridlock.
Much of the South and Central strips has a series of connected skyways and bridges that take pedestrians off the street. The new Clark County law, which went into effect Jan. 16, makes it illegal to stop walking while on a pedestrian bridge.
Previously, if people decided to stop walking — perhaps to watch something happening on the Strip or maybe to pose for social media — police had no legal standing to get them moving. The new rule makes standing still a misdemeanor that allows police to remedy the situation before an area becomes gridlocked and dangerously crowded with people.
Super Bowl visitors, however, will get a reprieve as the Las Vegas Police do not plan to enforce the new standing rules until signs have gone up explaining the law. That’s not expected to be completed in time for the big game.