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Securing Public Spaces From The Next Attack


Now, Sunday's attack came in a city that tens of millions of people visit each year, and as President Trump visits today, some people here are pondering what, if anything, they can do to stop future attacks. The vulnerabilities of the Las Vegas Strip represent vulnerabilities across this country.

When I look at the strip of casino hotels here, the first thing that strikes my eye is just the immensity of them. We stood looking at the glittering windows of the hotels with David Shepherd. He once was in charge of security for The Venetian casino.

What is the scale of the challenge - the what - that - what you have to secure?

DAVID SHEPHERD: Well, in my place, when I was head of security there, it was 10 million square feet of space just for The Venetian alone.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking that is many, many Walmarts, just to give an example.

SHEPHERD: A bunch. They have the largest freestanding ballroom - The Venetian has. You can put a 747 in it and not touch the wall.

INSKEEP: Shepherd is grey-haired, a former FBI agent. He tried to secure the casino without being oppressive. He says he used hidden cameras and undercover security people in tourist clothes. He went on to be a consultant for many casinos, and then came Sunday's attack.

Did you take this shooting personally?

SHEPHERD: I always do.

INSKEEP: It showed the difficulty of securing a venue that handles large crowds. Las Vegas casinos do not routinely make everyone step through scanners the way that airports do. With such huge crowds, they don't want to do that, fearing they'd drive away business.

SHEPHERD: How many entrances are in these properties?

INSKEEP: Multiple.

SHEPHERD: 5, 7. How many doors are in some of the entrances? 16, 18 doors. So what are you - going to put metal detectors and have everybody go from up there? Are you going to actually pat down everybody going in? Or do I want to go to another place that doesn't do that?

INSKEEP: As for tighter gun control, Shepherd doesn't even want to discuss it - too politically divisive, he says.

I'm thinking there're some basic assumptions that you must have that aren't going to change, one of them being, guns are legal in the United States.


INSKEEP: Yet he's troubled that when Stephen Paddock opened fire on a concert Sunday night, nobody seemed to see it coming.

So is there another basic assumption - from time to time, there's going to be a mass shooting like the one the other day. Is that just part of life now?

SHEPHERD: I hope it's not. I hope we can to do more to try to stop everything we can by people working together. Somewhere along this line here, he said something to somebody. He doesn't keep that much quiet.

INSKEEP: You believe this was a preventable crime if only enough had been done.

SHEPHERD: If - only if we knew enough ahead of time.

INSKEEP: The security consultant is left hoping that private and public security agencies can gather more and more information to spot signs of the next attacker like Paddock.

SHEPHERD: That's what's driving everybody nuts, that he does not fit any particular mold of anything - no mental condition, no - you go through a whole list - nothing.

INSKEEP: Casino security chiefs plan one of their periodic meetings this week. And as they ponder the problem, tourists keep coming. Some lingered in a park on the Strip last night next to the replica Empire State Building, listening to another concert. Asked about the shooting, a tourist from Boston told us it was time to take away everybody's guns. Nearby, Mark and Terry Slocombe (ph) doubted that would ever work. They're visiting from Kansas City.

TERRY SLOCOMBE: I'm afraid all this publicity about it is going to make other people think, oh, I could do that too and be famous.

INSKEEP: Does that make you worry that this is going to become a more regular part of life?

T. SLOCOMBE: Definitely, yeah.

MARK SLOCOMBE: It's something you have to accept, and you have to go on about your lives.

T. SLOCOMBE: You can go hide in your house.

INSKEEP: As we're walking the Las Vegas Strip in the light of these gigantic electric billboards, it is hard to find anybody who has a solution to the problem of mass killings except the idea that they're something that we have to bear. But the lights were still on. The replica Eiffel Tower, which was dark for one night in memory of the victims of the killing, is lit up once again. The casinos are open, and people play on.


IMANY: (Singing) And my heart just race so much faster. I drown myself in your holy water. And both my eyes just got so much brighter. And my soul got, oh, yes, so much closer. In the dark, I see your smile, and you feel my heat on my skin. Take off your clothes. Blow out the fire. Don't be so shy. You're all right. You're all right. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.