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
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'
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."