Las Vegas to crack down on aggressive panhandlers, performers - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Las Vegas to crack down on aggressive panhandlers, performers at Fremont

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Fremont Street is seen in this undated file photo. (File/FOX5) Fremont Street is seen in this undated file photo. (File/FOX5)

Downtown Las Vegas is enjoying a business and arts rebirth, drawing tourists back to the original heart of the city.

However, with the return of tourists, the number of street performers and panhandlers has increased in places like Fremont Street Experience.

Some tourists have complained that they are occasionally aggressive, demanding tips and handouts. Those complaints have not escaped city leaders.

"So many people coming out here asking for money. It's ridiculous," said Kevin Weaver, who owns a business at Fremont Street Experience.

"The other day I saw some guy, he was panhandling. Some guy didn't want to give him money, and he started swearing at him and cursing at him. It really scared the guy away," Weaver continued.

Timeshare salesman Kidd Scurry said the situation at Fremont Street has gone from bad to worse in the seven years he's been working there.

"When people get annoyed, there is a problem. On a scale of one to 10, you're hitting an eight-plus," he said.

It's not just the intimation that Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman says is the problem.

"Some of these individuals are nearly nude and others are very aggressive, and at times even vulgar," she said.

City leaders are considering a tiered approach, letting tourists, panhandlers and street performers know there are rules.

"A no-touch rule that keeps street performers from touching visitors [and] vice versa," Goodman said. "There is no expectation for visitors in the Experience or anywhere else to be forced to tip performers."

Outgoing Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Doug Gillespie believes a greater police presence downtown would go a long way toward reducing aggressiveness by panhandlers and performers.

"There is an intimidation factor there. I believe [with] a police officer standing in close proximity, there is not going to be that intimidation aspect," Gillespie said.

The ACLU's Allen Lichtenstein agrees. He believes police officers would diffuse situations more effectively than the security team that patrols downtown because they have greater familiarity with the law.

"[Security officers] are not trained, are not told what the law is. [They] kind of make it up as they go along and will harass people they don't want there and who management doesn't want there," Lichtenstein said.

The city plans to install signs around downtown, informing visitors of what they may encounter at Fremont Street Experience and along Fremont East Entertainment District.

The mayor and business owners made it clear that it is only a handful of performers and panhandlers who get aggressive with visitors.

Gillespie said that currently, nine police officers patrol Fremont Street Experience. That number could increase in the coming weeks.

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