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Crime And Revenue Down, So Will Metro Officers Be Laid Off?

Associated Press

Crime is way down in Las Vegas, some 30 percent. But there are exceptions. Domestic violence calls are up.

As expected, state and local tax revenues are down and expected to be down as much as 50 percent. So what does the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department do to save money?

"We know that we're in an economic perfect storm and that Metro has to be part of the solution and not the problem," Undersheriff Kevin McMahill told KNPR's State of Nevada.

The department already laid-off part-time workers that were working on projects like loading DNA samples into department systems. They also laid off the mounted patrol unit, which McMahill admits was not a popular decision.

However, he said at a time like this the department has to decide what is a luxury and what is a necessity. 

As far as cuts to benefits and salaries, McMahill said most department workers are covered by union contracts and those will have to be negotiated.

Plus, it is too early to know exactly what kind of budget problems will be. 

"We have to submit our budget next month to the city and the county so they can do their overall budget and we still don't have the tax roles in. We don't know what money is still coming in. We don't know what property tax, we don't know what sales tax is going to look like," he said.

One of the big problems the undersheriff sees ahead is the loss of property taxes. The department is mostly funded by sales tax but property taxes also contribute, and if businesses close permanently because of the shutdown, then the department could lose more funding.

He said the department is working through all kinds of budgeting scenarios. The undersheriff is concerned that however the cuts work out the department will shrink back below the two officers for every 1,000 residents, which has been its goal.

"We are going to, no doubt, go back down from that 2.0 officers per 1,000 permanent residents back down to somewhere probably back into the numbers that we had seen during the recession - 1.6 or 1.7," McMahill said.

The undersheriff credits the increase in police officers on the streets for the decrease in crime over the past year. He is concerned about what will happen if the number of officers goes down.

"As we move toward cuts or reduction or our ability to hire, I'm absolutely concerned about what that looks like," he said.

Despite those concerns, the undersheriff is proud of the officers who are continuing to work despite personal risks. Twenty-two officers have tested positive for coronavirus. One had to be hospitalized and just recently was able to be taken off a ventilator.

"We continue to struggle with just like anybody else," he said, "We try and stay in tune and communicate with our officers and deal with the fears... the men and women of Metro are an absolutely resilient bunch and they continue to show up and do exactly what this community expects of them."

Undersheriff Kevin McMahill, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.