Don’t gamble on your safety: Advice for staying safe in Las Vegas and a cautionary tale
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Here at The Points Guy, we prefer to focus on all the many positive aspects of traveling, because we’re as passionate about it as you are.
But our ultimate goal is to inform you and help you become a better, smarter traveler. Part of that means letting you know the best way to maximize points, how to pack a carry-on for a weeklong trip and how to get through TSA checkpoints as quickly as possible. But we can’t overlook the most important travel tip: how to stay safe.
As we return to our travel routines, we want to remind you to not overlook safety when you’re planning your vacations. Because the sad fact is, there are some people out there who are always looking to take advantage of a distracted traveler and rip them off. And no city in America has as many big, shiny distractions as Las Vegas.
In fact, one of TPG’s employees was recently victimized in Las Vegas, and her story holds lessons that could be valuable for you.
Read on for our tips, and her story.
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Sin City is experiencing a major revival after more than a year of the desert metropolis being virtually shuttered because of the coronavirus. Hotels are reporting a slew of bookings, the terminals at McCarran International Airport (LAS) are filled with travelers and the casinos are packed with gamblers hoping to hit the jackpot. With all the entertainment options that a 24/7 city like Vegas has to offer, it’s easy to lose sight of things. And when we do that while on vacation, bad things can occasionally happen.
We want to stress that we don’t consider Las Vegas to be an unsafe place. In fact, the Vegas Strip, where the majority of the action is centered, has traditionally been incredibly safe. It’s not only well lit (all those bright lights and neon signs do come in handy) but there is always a significant police presence in the area. Nearly every major hotel-casino in the city also offers plenty of security, with not just personnel but also surveillance cameras.
That said, last year saw a spike in violent crime in the area that led the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to increase patrols and even begin using undercover officers. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted in a story last fall, safety on the Strip and in the surrounding area is a top priority for the city to bounce back from the devastating impact the pandemic had on its tourism-dependent economy.
So what can you do to avoid having your vacation ruined by becoming a victim of theft or some type of scam? Some of these tips are common sense and apply when you travel anywhere, but especially when visiting a city like Vegas with heavy crowds.
Be vigilant. This one is self-explanatory, but it bears repeating. Pay attention to your surroundings, especially when you’re outside your hotel. The Strip often gets very crowded. Don’t walk around staring at your phone.
Put valuables in front pockets
If you carry a wallet, put it in your front pocket to deter pickpockets. Also, consider putting your cellphone in a front pocket. If you use a purse, wear it diagonally; this makes it harder to pull off.
Leave some cash and cards behind
Also, don’t take all your cash and credit cards with you when you head out for a night on the town. That way, if you lose your wallet or purse, you at least have resources back in your hotel room safe.
Have a plan
Don’t leave your hotel without a plan. Before you and your partner or friends leave the hotel to go to dinner or a nightclub, know where you’re going and have your directions handy. You don’t want to just head out and wander around aimlessly. Knowing where you’re going saves you from having to ask for directions from someone who may not have your best interests in mind.
Don’t wander too far
Don’t stray too far off the Strip. Because of the heavy police presence, the Strip is typically a safe bet for Vegas tourists. With all the restaurant and club options at the hotels in that area, that’s where a lot of visitors want to spend their time anyway. But sometimes we want to check out what the locals do on a vacation, which is fine. But in Las Vegas, you should think twice before going too far away from your resort. If you want a break from the crowds and noise of the Strip, head downtown to Fremont Street and get a taste of old Las Vegas. It’s not as swank or glamorous, but there are lots of things to do and a healthy police presence.
Slow your roll
Don’t party too hard. Admittedly, this may be the toughest tip to follow. Vegas is a party town, and many folks who head there are going there to have fun and cut loose. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But again, like many of the suggestions we’ve made here, it’s about making smart choices. If you’re going out somewhere that involves getting in a car, you should try to not drink too much.
Too much alcohol will impair your decision-making, and bad decisions have been the cause of a great many travel horror stories. If you think your night will involve several cocktails, consider staying in your hotel. That way, all you have to do is walk to the elevators and head upstairs.
Use cabs, limos and/or ride-hailing services
Walking is one of the best ways to take in a city and enjoy all the flavor it has to offer. And unless it’s 110 degrees out, a walk outside in Vegas can be quite enjoyable. Besides, the adult beverages tend to flow rather freely in Vegas; if you want to enjoy a free drink at dinner or at the club, then driving shouldn’t be an option (the traffic is also brutal at night and who wants to deal with that?). But if you’re planning on venturing farther than the 4.2-mile-long Strip, we suggest calling a cab, Uber or Lyft. One other thing: The Las Vegas Monorail is a nice option to save time if you want to explore all the casino properties. It takes passengers between the Sahara and MGM Grand casinos, making five stops in between, and trains come every four to eight minutes. The train cars are clean and air-conditioned, and the stations have police officers and surveillance cameras to make sure riders feel safe.
Don’t bring your valuables
Don’t leave valuables in your car. Driving to Vegas is a popular travel choice, especially for California residents. Who doesn’t like a road trip to Vegas, baby? But keep in mind that even though many resorts have cameras in their parking garages, leaving your belongings in your vehicle is a risk you may not want to take. If at all possible, take your property out of your car and bring it to your hotel room. We realize this is inconvenient, but the alternative is worse.
Learn from The Points Guy
With that in mind, we wanted to share a troubling incident that happened to one of TPG’s leaders during a recent vacation to Las Vegas and its newest (and most expensive) hotel, the $4.3 billion Resorts World Complex. On June 30, Becca Manheimer, TPG’s director of marketing and communications, and her husband, Jaime, visited the freshly opened megaresort as part of a six-month road trip across the U.S. They parked their car in the Resorts World parking lot overnight and checked in to their room at the Hilton tower.
The next day, they discovered their car had been burglarized and all of their belongings inside had been stolen. Keep in mind, this was a half-year trip they had embarked on. They had clothes, personal items and mementos, estimated to be worth around $25,000, inside the car. And it was all gone. It’s not hard to see why Manheimer says panic quickly set in.
“We were really freaking out when this happened,” recalls Manheimer. “We had all of our stuff in the car. We had our jewelry and our laptops and stuff with us (in the hotel room), but almost everything else was gone.”
After notifying security about the break-in, Manheimer said one of the guards told her husband something that left both of them speechless.
“The guard said to my husband that this has happened every day since (Resorts World) opened,” she says.
Manheimer and her husband say they talked with the hotel manager and other employees, but all they seemed to get was mixed messages and the sense the hotel staff was woefully underprepared.
“We were given the run-around in so many different ways,” she says. “We were told many different things by hotel employees and security, such as, ‘We don’t know if the cameras are working yet,’ or ‘We’re a brand-new hotel,’ to ‘We only have cameras in the casino.'”
That last comment was especially curious, because the Manheimers shot video of the hotel guest parking area. Their car was parked on Level 2, Row D, and as this screenshot from the video shows, there are definitely security cameras within the garage.
A police report was filed over the phone with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, because it was not considered a life-threatening crime. Manheimer says the officer she spoke to on the phone told her they have “had a number of reports from that hotel” since it opened on June 24.
The next day, the Manheimers went by the police station to provide a list of the items that had been stolen from their car. An officer at the station reiterated what they had been told on the phone, that they have received an influx of calls about car burglaries, hotel room break-ins and larcenies.
TPG contacted the LVMPD for comment. We spoke with Public Information Officer Aden OcampoGomez and asked if the department had seen an unusual number of calls coming from Resorts World. Officer OcampoGomez said LVMPD does not track crime stats by specific properties, only by general areas. We looked at the current crime stats on the LVMPD website and found that burglaries and thefts in the area around the Vegas Strip for the week ending July 2 — the week the Manheimers’ car was burglarized — saw single-digit increases from the same week in 2020. Car burglaries, however, were up more than 24%.
Jaime Manheimer says the inconsistency with information was what was most concerning. “There was no uniform answer for what (your employees) should do when something like (a car break-in) happens,” he says. “Every single employee gave us a different answer.”
TPG reached out to Resorts World about their security measures and asked if, in the wake of the incident with the Manheimers and possibly others, they had taken steps to shore up security. We received this statement from the property:
Safety is a top priority at Resorts World Las Vegas, and as such, the property utilizes a variety of security methods, including static, roving and K9 security units, surveillance systems, among other advanced technology, to provide a safe resort experience for all.
Additionally, the Resorts World Las Vegas security team works closely with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to provide support to the resort’s security personnel in and around the property. All reported incidents are promptly responded to and thoroughly investigated to ensure any matter concerning the safety of a guest or visitor is immediately addressed.
As for the Manheimers, they are slowly navigating the long, arduous process that follows a robbery like this. The LVMPD has assigned a detective to the case.
They managed to get their bank to freeze their account in time to prevent nearly $8,000 in fraudulent checks from being cashed. They also took several steps that they wanted to share with people in case they encounter a similar situation.
The first thing they did was to call and alert all three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — to prevent any unauthorized accounts from being opened in their name.
Related: Credit card fraud protection
Second, they contacted their bank, notified them of the stolen checks and then transferred the money in their checking account — information the thieves had from the stolen checkbooks — into their savings account.
Third, they signed up for LifeLock, the identity theft protection company.
Related reading: How to prevent credit card fraud
We’ve covered the opening of Resorts World extensively here at TPG. We paid for three staffers to stay on-site during the first week the property was open to report on what it’s like within the Hilton, Conrad and Crockfords hotels, as well as all the amenities. We even had a story about how a TPG staffer visiting the property at the same time as Becca had his reservation canceled less than 24 hours before he was due to check in. As that story detailed, that’s the type of misstep to be expected from a brand-new hotel. It’s why we’ve said, more than once, that staying at a hotel when it first opens its doors may not be the wisest move.
What happened to the Manheimers provides a necessary reminder that when it comes to our personal safety on a vacation, we should always be vigilant, take as many precautions as possible and not take safety for granted.
Featured photo by Alan Schein Photography/Getty Images.
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