"There is some concern that if we are not able to do these things ... that ultimately we run the risk of it impacting our tourism base and ultimately limiting our ability to expand our tourism base as we begin to rebound as a community," said Don Burnette, manager for Clark County, the government that oversees the Strip.
Free speech activists say, however, that civil rights trump economic concerns.
Dane Claussen, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Nevada, said free speech on public sidewalks is protected under the Constitution. The organization could take legal action against the county depending on how any new policies are crafted, he said.
"We don't sacrifice the First Amendment for the sake of maintaining tourism," Claussen said.Las Vegas police already use traffic cameras installed at various intersections to monitor criminal activity. An expanded surveillance program would allow police to respond to crimes more quickly and effectively, Burnette said. "It's not for intelligence gathering but it's to help get a better understanding of what's going on," he said. "People conjure up images of Big Brother, and that's not what it is about." The proposals were drafted during 13 meetings spread out over six months. Among the Las Vegas power players backing the recommendations are executives from Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd., MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Boyd Gaming Corp. The Clark County Commission is slated to discuss the recommendations next week. Local governments and casino officials will likely be asked to contribute to the costs of hiring more police officers and installing the cameras. "You have to pay to play," Weekly said. "We've got to send a message out that this is not 'Animal House.'"
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