Las Vegas cops powerless over shooting violence

By Mark Harrison, TNC contributing writer

Violence is out of control in Las Vegas and police are unable to do anything about it. Since February, eight shooting deaths have occurred within a mile of each other, claiming the lives of a church deacon and a teenage girl in separate instances of gangland crossfire. And, according to police logs and Clark County intelligence reports, 20 nonfatal shootings have been reported this year alone in the impoverished black communities of North and West Las Vegas.

Las Vegas New Black Panther leader Ron Current discourages people who have information from cooperating with police in their investigations. Few leads have been developed since most understand that the police are powerless to protect eyewitnesses from gang reprisal. Random shooting in the neighborhood is safer than snitching.

Rather than intensifying police presence in these communities, as some are calling for, Ron Current is demanding equality to address the violence. An 8-point plan of action was delivered to the mayors of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Governor Kenny Guinn. The New Black Panthers and other organizations developed "The Peoples' Demands" that call upon local governments to provide equal opportunities.

The Peoples' Demands include re-paving badly neglected streets, rebuilding the dilapidated Do-Little recreation center and funding a drug rehabilitation facility. According to the "demands," blacks are repeatedly denied access to the two rehabilitation centers in the area that are "proven to be racist." Rebuilding decaying infrastructure, supporting rehabilitative and recreational centers, and drawing a minimum of 50 percent of the labor force for construction from these communities where the contracts would be awarded is not too much to ask, Current insists.

The unemployment rate is around four percent in Nevada, but in these neighborhoods unemployment ranges between 18 and 22 percent. Consequently, the "Peoples' Demands" call for a West and North employment and job training center designed to create 1,500 new jobs. In addition, a candidate elected by the people would serve in a paid position as a liaison between the people and the governor in a concerted effort to eradicate problems facing the communities.

Police believe that gang turf wars over drugs are directly responsible for the rash of deaths and violence. Ron Current agrees, but a stronger police presence is not the answer, insists the New Black Panther leader. He acknowledges that "bad guys, black, white or whatever, who would rather make $2,000 a week selling drugs than go to work," will always be with us. If alternatives such as jobs, education, and drug rehabilitation are made available, then Current says the bad element will be isolated and others will be rescued from gang affiliation. When given the opportunity, many will choose a good job over a life of crime. "A working community is a happy community," declares 'The Peoples' Demands."

These demands have legs. Unless action was taken by April 16, the three-mile Las Vegas strip that attracts about 40 million vacationers each year would be shut down with protest demonstrations and a massive march. The world would see a different Las Vegas.

Mayor Oscar Goodman indicated in early April that he was not going to be coerced into action by the threat of protest. "If they're looking to grandstand, the two of them (Ron Current and Panther Minister of Information Kenny X) can walk down the street together holding hands," quoted Las Vegas Review-Journal. But a phone conversation on deadline day between the mayor and the Black Panther resulted in the march being called off-- or at least postponed­-and a meeting was scheduled for April 23 to address the demands. And though there was no public acknowledgement that the mayor was influenced by the "People," god forbid, Mr. Current said in our interview the day following the canceled protest march, "They are tearing up the streets (for re-paving) as we speak."