Friday, January 01, 2010
So the answer was to hand over the names of everybody staying in town. That meant hotel records, airline records, rental car records, gift shop records and casino records.
People swarmed to the Las Vegas Strip anyway to welcome in 2004.
Sheriff Young seemed to justify the heavy scrutiny over his city's guests, telling PBS, “People that come to Vegas, the only time they're not on video is when they're in their room or they're in a public restroom. They don't have them in those. But the hallways, the elevators, the gaming area--we've taken that to a level that has, I think, surpassed any place in the United States.”
But the high alerts weren’t the only time guests of Las Vegas have unknowingly had their personal information handed over to law enforcement. For years, insiders at Vegas hotels have reported that when someone registers at a hotel or even a small motel, and the hotel desk clerk takes the guest's driver’s license, he then walks behind the lobby where you can’t see him. That’s when he makes a Xerox copy that is later handed over, in a stack of driver’s licenses, to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The police, in turn, run the licenses see if there are any outstanding arrest warrants.
Early on, when I was covering the police beat for the Las Vegas Sun, I wondered how, when someone had just arrived in town and wasn’t pulled over for a traffic violation, the cops knew that particular person had an outstanding warrant. I’d see it several times a week in police reports. Or a news release would state that so-and-so was arrested soon after arriving in Las Vegas because he or she was a fugitive from justice.
Once I learned that hotel personnel regularly Xeroxed driver’s licenses of registered hotel guests and handed them over to the cops, then I knew. The police would run the names, then, voilà, up would pop the miscreants--an easy collar for police.
That’s the dirty secret most people who come to Las Vegas don’t know about. It’s not just that people are being watched via surveillance cameras in cabs, restaurants, hotels and casinos, but their driver’s license info may be passed on to the authorities as well.
As Gary Peck, at the time executive director with the American Civil Liberties Nevada office, told PBS in reference to the December 2003 terrorist scare, '"Trust us. We're the government. And if you're not up to no good, why should you care?' That's not the way our system works. We are a country that is founded on a set of principles relating to individual freedom, including our privacy, our right to be left alone by the government."
Well said, Gary Peck.
Such law enforcement scrutiny for New Year’s Eve hasn’t happened since 2003 turned into 2004--at least not that we know of.
Photos courtesy The New York Times and Las Vegas Sun