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Las Vegas Faces a Whole New Kind of Theft Problem

A local company nearly lost $175,000.

When one thinks of Las Vegas and theft, the image that inevitably springs up is one that could come straight out of the Bourne franchise or "Casino Royale" -- one puts on a poker face and smooth-talks an evildoer into giving away information critical to recouping thousands of stolen dollars.

But despite stereotypes, smaller types of theft and crime actually end up having a much bigger impact on the local economy.

As first reported by local news, a hot-air balloon used to take tourists on once-in-a-lifetime tours of the city and nearby Grand Canyon has gone missing only to be recovered in a vacant lot a few days later.

How Does A Huge Hot-Air Balloon Go Missing?

A company called Vegas Balloon Rides reported that its 15-story, 16-passenger hot-air balloon disappeared from the trailer to which it was attached on Monday afternoon.

When workers came in the wee hours of the morning (hot-air balloon rides typically start very early because that's when wind conditions are most stable), they found that the balloon, passenger basket and 400-pound tank of flammable liquid propane used to power it were missing from the spot where it is held overnight. It is worth approximately $175,000.

"We definitely didn’t think our hot air balloon would be stolen," Vegas Balloon Rides co-owner J.J. Padro Allende told local broadcast news, adding the additional risk if the flammable gas is used for ill "A lot of us depend on this. This is our livelihood."

As it's hard to make away with something of that size, the deflated hot-air balloon was later found abandoned in another vacant lot by Wednesday morning. 

Allende and co-owner Jean Francois Rigollet reiterated their relief at finding it and said that they'd be installing better cameras and tracking devices around their trailers to minimize the chances of something similar taking place again.

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The Most Common Theft In Las  Vegas

While the theft of a hot-air ballon makes news for its sheer size and comic imagery, Las Vegas crime rates have been up and down throughout much of last year -- according to data provided by the local Metropolitan Police Department, motor vehicle thefts in August were up 19.6% between 2021 and 2022 while homicides are down 14% in the same time period. 

Property crimes are up 14.8% percent from 82,987 in 2021 to 85,749 in 2022.

At the same time, a string of high-profile shootings and attempted murders on the Las Vegas Strip in December have pushed local authorities to establish an “order out corridor” that can ban anyone convicted of committing a crime in a popular tourist area from entering the space for a year.

“We have a responsibility to try new things and do better to maintain a safe and secure experience for our visitors, employees and residents,” Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, said to the Review-Journal of the decision that passed in December.

The order, however, has been subject to some criticism over concerns about what could be unequal enforcement as well as the vagueness of the language.