December 31, 2003
WIld West Show on the Las Vegas Strip

Armed helicopters will patrol the restricted airspace over the Strip on New Year's Eve to protect Las Vegas from a potential terrorist attack. The military gunships will be equipped with weaponry that can "dismantle or disrupt any kind of ground attack" involving tankers, trucks or other vehicles, Sheriff Bill Young said.

Despite the extraordinary security precautions under way, public officials reiterated Tuesday that the federal government has uncovered no specific or credible intelligence suggesting Las Vegas is in terrorists' cross hairs.

Guinn acknowledged that he and other leaders may be sending a mixed message to potential celebrants by taking highly elevated security measures, but not cancelling fireworks displays or encouraging people to stay home.

The governor said without specific information about an immediate threat to Las Vegas, there is no reason to cancel celebrations. But how leaders respond to vague threats has shifted in the two years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"America has changed, and we must change," Guinn said. "Yes, it may be a mixed message, but I think it's one of comfort that we're doing everything we can."

A week ago, Young and Las Vegas tourism marketer Billy Vassiliadis discussed the wisdom of cancelling tonight's fireworks show and both men agreed such a move would be impractical and would have little impact on the wild New Year's Eve partying that typically envelopes the Strip and downtown.

"Everybody realized that people pour onto the Strip whether there's fireworks or not," said Vassiliadis, whose R&R Partners has the advertising contract for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

There was no Strip fireworks show for New Year's Eve 2000 amid security and crowd control concerns for the start of the new millennium. That decision left many tourists and locals angered by what they viewed as an underwhelming celebration that was surpassed by cities around the world.

Posted by tstubbs at December 31, 2003 05:51 PM
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