Center for American Progress Action

Fact Sheet: The Truth About Violent Crime in Clark County
Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet: The Truth About Violent Crime in Clark County

Donald Trump has blamed Gov. Steve Sisolak for what he calls a “cesspool of crime” in Nevada, but it's his fellow Republican Joe Lombardo who oversaw a record spike in murders while serving as Clark County sheriff.

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President Trump delivers remarks at Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department headquarters.
President Donald Trump delivers remarks at Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department headquarters on October 4, 2017, days after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history took place on the Las Vegas Strip. (Getty/Drew Angerer)

At a Republican campaign event earlier this year, former President Trump referred to Nevada as a “cesspool of crime” and placed blame on Gov. Steve Sisolak. In reality, however, Gov. Sisolak’s policies have led to historic lows in statewide rates of violent crime, while Nevada’s MAGA Republicans—including Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo—have consistently handicapped law enforcement, undermined public safety, and increased criminals’ access to guns.

MAGA candidate Joe Lombardo and former President Trump may try to point fingers. They should look in the mirror.

Lifelong NRA member and former Sheriff Joe Lombardo was directly responsible for a surge in violent homicides in Clark County, home of the Las Vegas Strip. As sheriff, he systematically undermined his police officers’ ability to address violent crime. The result was devastating: Clark County experienced a significant rise in homicides and other crimes, even while Democrats’ statewide gun violence policies led to reductions in crime rates across the rest of the state. Now in his run for governor, Lombardo has vowed to support policies that would increase the flood of dangerous weapons into Las Vegas and across the Battle Born State. Not only that, but Lombardo has also promised to overturn policies that are in place and working to keep Nevadans safe.

Lombardo is not alone. When Republicans controlled the state government from 2015 to 2017, they passed dangerous policies to weaken gun laws and undermine public safety. Former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval removed Clark County’s handgun permitting system through a strict preemption law and prevented universal background checks from being implemented. Gun crime surged as a result. Just two years later, 60 people died on the Strip in the deadliest mass shooting in America’s history—all under Republicans’ watch.

In contrast, Gov. Sisolak has taken bold steps to support law enforcement’s ability to combat violent crime and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. These policies have been successful in driving Nevada crime rates to their lowest levels since 1985, the first year with available data.

Gov. Sisolak has a proven record of reducing violent crime; Joe Lombardo does not.

Joe Lombardo tied the hands of law enforcement as Clark County sheriff, leading to a record spike in local homicide rates

  • When elected sheriff of Clark County in 2014, Joe Lombardo implemented a major restructuring of the local police department. His actions hindered law enforcement by decentralizing detectives and taking officers off of critical investigative and gang units.
  • Lombardo’s actions had a direct and devastating impact on violent crime: In the year following the restructuring, Clark County saw a record 67 percent spike in homicides.
  • Law enforcement experts, including the head of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, blamed Lombardo’s actions as sheriff for this dramatic crime surge.
  • From 2020 to 2021, Clark County experienced a 49 percent increase in homicides, with the majority of them inflicted by gunshot. During the same time period, statewide rates of violent crime decreased by more than 9 percent as other counties across the state either maintained the same levels or saw decreases in homicide rates.

Crime in Clark County vs. Nevada

+49%

Increase in homicides in Clark County from 2020 to 2021

-9%

Decrease in violent crime in Nevada from 2020 to 2021

Lombardo is not alone; during their period of control, Republicans in Nevada weakened gun laws and boosted rates of violent crime

  • In 2013, just six months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill that would have required a background check for anyone in the state seeking to buy a firearm.
  • In 2015, Gov. Sandoval signed into law a multipronged bill passed by the Republican legislature to expand access to guns—despite crime rates already trending upward. Among other things, the bill expanded the state’s concealed carry reciprocity to other states and eliminated Clark County’s decadeslong “blue card” handgun purchase system. These changes immediately increased the number of guns in public, leading to an increase in violent crime.
  • In the year following the bill’s passage, statewide violent crime rates surged. And these Republican policies continue to impact the safety of Nevadans to this day. The strict preemption law, for example, blocked Clark County from being able to enact any gun restrictions on the Strip in the wake of the 2017 mass shooting. This is particularly problematic because Nevada only has statewide legislative sessions every other year—and thus couldn’t begin to respond to the mass shooting until at least 2019 unless Gov. Sandoval had called a special session.

Joe Lombardo promises to bring his dangerous MAGA policies statewide if he becomes governor

  • Beyond undermining law enforcement officers with his decisions as sheriff, Joe Lombardo supported and helped enforce policies that made it easier for dangerous people to get access to guns.
  • In 2015, Lombardo worked with Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to eliminate Clark County’s “blue card” firearm registration system, which required handguns to be registered and prohibited the unlawful transfer of handguns.
  • In the months following, the number of violent crimes in Clark County rapidly increased. In fact, 2015 saw the highest rate of violent crimes reported by the Las Vegas Metro Police Department in the 2010–2020 time frame.
  • Joe Lombardo has also promised to undo Gov. Sisolak’s successful policies, which keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. As candidate for governor, he has committed to repealing the ban on ghost guns and overturning Nevada’s extreme risk law.
  • Lombardo does not support any restrictions on large-capacity magazines or automatic weapons, despite his experience overseeing the investigation of Las Vegas shooting—where these types of weapons were used to kill and injure more people than any mass shooting in America’s history.
  • Lombardo has committed to bringing firearms into Nevada classrooms. After a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 students and two teachers, Lombardo reiterated his support for arming teachers and putting guns in schools.

Gov. Sisolak implemented gun safety reforms that have reduced violent crimes in Nevada down to the lowest levels since 1985

  • After 60 people lost their lives in 2017 during the deadliest shooting in American history, Gov. Sisolak ran on a platform of commonsense gun safety reforms to support law enforcement and reduce violent crime.
  • Sisolak followed through on his campaign promises during his first term, signing significant gun safety reforms into law. This included legislation to strengthen background checks and close the private sale loophole, which allowed people to purchase firearms at gun shows or online without a background check; a law to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, including provisions to ban bump stocks, like those used in the Vegas mass shooting; an extreme risk protection order in the state, allowing guns to be temporarily removed from people at risk of harming themselves or others; and legislation to ban the sale of unserialized, untraceable “ghost guns” often used in violent crimes.
  • Sisolak has also made significant investments in police departments’ ability to address violent crime. Funding for state police is up by 11 percent since Gov. Sisolak took office, and he has promised a significant pay increase for officers to boost recruitment and retention.
  • As a result, Sisolak has overseen drops in violent crime every year since he took office.

Figure 1

Conclusion

MAGA Republican policies, coupled with Joe Lombardo’s decisions as sheriff, have been responsible for surges in violent crime in Las Vegas and across the Battle Born State. In contrast, Gov. Sisolak’s commonsense gun laws have saved lives and reduced statewide crime rates to their lowest levels in decades.

MAGA candidate Joe Lombardo and former President Trump may try to point fingers. They should look in the mirror.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

Author

the Center for American Progress Action Fund

Explore The Series

A woman walks through a field of flowers representing deaths from gun violence.

As Republican elected officials and candidates continue to make false claims about Democrats’ record on crime and public safety, the Center for American Progress Action Fund is setting the record straight about the true cause of increases in violent crime: access to guns. This series of fact sheets shows how increases in crime are directly linked to dangerous gun laws passed by Republicans.

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