A Pig, a Panda and a Cat Rolex in Vegas

Rolex you say? Yep, “to Rolex” is when you go to a Rolex store with a sledge hammer, break the windows, take whatever you want and go on your merry way.  It happened Saturday March 25th in Las Vegas.  The store is located in the Bellagio, so even at one in the morning there were people around to witness the robbery.  Four men dressed in suits and tuxedos, wearing animal masks and armed with sledge hammers attacked the store breaking the windows to gain entrance.  One stood outside with his weapon in full view and told people to get away.  When the four masked bandits finished, they ran to their car in the parking garage.  Unfortunately their car refused to start, so they tried to car jack a ride, but failed and fled on foot.  Only the poor pig did not escape and is being held by the Las Vegas police.  He is only twenty years old and if his buddies are as young it might explain their ineptness.

On that same day, a man riding a city bus shot two people, one of whom died later. The shooter, a fifty-five year old Las Vegan said he just wanted to frighten a passenger who had frightened him.  The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the man told police he “felt bad about what happened and reiterated that all he wanted to do was scare the large male.” On the surface, neither of these stories rises to a level of national significance, except in the 21st century all public violence has become significant.  The world has become a more dangerous place since September 11, 2001, or at least it is perceived as more dangerous.

Twenty years ago, no one outside of Las Vegas would have noted the nut with a gun on a bus in Las Vegas.  But given the context of terrorist acts around the world, anyone killing other people in public becomes national news.  Just a week before, an equally disturbed man in London drove into a crowd of people.  He killed four people and injured scores more.  There is no evidence that it was an act of terror, but the man was a Muslim and that always raises the red flag of terrorism in people’s minds.  London has had more than one of those acts of terrorism, as have Paris, Madrid and other cities in Europe.  It is one of the major narratives of the 21st century.

Because of our hyper-sensitivity to such acts, the events in Las Vegas took on a larger importance in the national press.  The world is portrayed as being more dangerous and particularly risky for tourists. In the London incident, a man from Utah in town to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary was one of those killed and people from several other countries were injured.  In Las Vegas, the man killed was a tourist from Montana.  Immediately after such incidents the press begins to speculate on the impact of these events on tourism.  Will people stop going to see Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower or the famous Strip?  There have been no published studies on the change in visitations per year following a well published act of public violence, so the best we can do is speculate.  I do not think any of the incidents will have a long-term impact, although we all feel a little more angst when we travel these days.

The fear of terrorism is not going to abate as long as there is a force for radical change in the Middle East or anywhere else.   When the violence in the Middle East stayed there, we barely noticed; but with the destruction of the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York the violence was successfully exported.  That was not the first time, but it was the most significant.  It led to major changes in the way we think about terrorism, violence and travel.  But in cities like Paris, London and even Las Vegas, the number of people killed is no greater than before.  Las Vegas gets over 40 million visitors a year; in any population of that size there will be many deaths from a variety of causes, food poisoning, car accidents, stabbings, suicide and yes from shots fired by a disturbed man on a bus; and of course you might even be robbed by a man in a pig, cat or even a panda mask.  We do live in a dangerous world, but not necessarily as dangerous as the terrorist narrative would have you believe.

I am not suggesting that we should be blasé about terrorism or any violence.  The city of Las Vegas and its casinos have to take the threat very seriously and do everything that is possible to protect those 40 million people from violence.  All of the major cities in Europe and around the world have terrorism very high on their agendas, no national or local government in the West can afford to ignore the threat.  But as individuals, we do not need to be intimidated.  In 2016, 700 million Americans flew on airplanes.  Internationally during the year there were 19 crashes that killed 325 people; that was one person out of every 10.7 million that flew.  In 2015 in the United States, 35,092 people were killed in automobile accidents while people drove 3.1 billion miles.  I don’t have the numbers of deaths for Vegas, but the ratios would be comparable; 41 million people visited the town and stayed an average of 3.4 nights each.  A very small percentage of those people were injured, killed or met a masked pig with a sledge hammer.  John Choate, executive director of security for Wynn spoke to a group of hospitality executives about terrorism and security in Las Vegas.  He concluded that Las Vegas was safer than most places and people should feel “very, very safe coming to Las Vegas.” His timing may have been bad, two days after the incidents at the Bellagio and on the bus, but he is right, Las Vegas is still a very safe city to visit.



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