20 Minutes With Captain Walsh: Homelessness, Progress and an Active Case

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DTLV.com has not covered crime-related news too closely in the past. As a way to keep the community informed on the latest from specific cases to general trends, we are starting a new monthly roundup with Downtown Las Vegas bureau commander Captain Andrew Walsh, who will give us the lowdown on what’s happening on the streets. He’s been the Downtown commander for almost two years and is what you’d expect a veteran cop would look and sound like—hair buzzed on the sides and an authentic New York cop accent. This article marks the third interview I’ve had with him. When we first met back in April he sparked the idea to write a story about drug courts as an alternative to jail from narcotics-related crimes. He gave me the idea for this column (20 Minutes With Captain Walsh), too, when he suggested meeting up regularly as a way to open up the dialogue between LVMPD and DTLV. The quick conversation is a way we can deliver short, digestible updates and announcements to you.

Nearing the end of a violent year: Those who peruse local news on a daily basis will know there has been an exceptional number of homicides that occurred in 2016—16 of which happened Downtown as of November 16, including three homeless murders.

Unfortunately it’s been one of those years where violence has been something that’s plagued police departments throughout the country.

“Unfortunately it’s been one of those years where violence has been something that’s plagued police departments throughout the country, so we have not been immune to that,” Walsh says.

The number of violent crimes occurring in recent months has slowed down yet 2016 stats will be similar to years prior. 

“The way we started the year off, from a statistical standpoint, we got into a very deep hole that’s hard to climb out of, so we’re probably going to finish with the same number of murders this year as last year. But the number of shootings is up this year compared to last year,” he says.

Homelessness improves but remains a constant battle: According to the last state census, there are 9,000 homeless in Las Vegas, which Walsh estimates to be closer to 12,000 due to the challenges of surveying homeless people.  

Considerable work has been put into cleaning up the corridor by Catholic Charities near Las Vegas Boulevard and Owens Avenue where a large homeless population often gathers. “That area looks cleaner than it has in several years, it’s been a constant effort, it’s a drain on resources to maintain that,” he says.

The community can continue to help by donating to homeless services rather than directly to the people living on the street. Walsh says giving directly to a homeless person sustains their ability to be homeless rather than nudge them into services that can help long-term such as alcohol and drug treatment. homelesscensus-400x300

“People do good. You can’t fault the good heart of all the people in the community that are trying to do the right thing, but it’s not really helping,” he says. “No one wants us to arrest our way out of the homeless problem either. We probably could find petty crimes and arrest hundreds of homeless people every day, but all we’re doing at that point is making the city and the county jail the largest homeless shelter, and that’s not the intent of the law.”

Making progress locally: “We’re looking forward to getting to New Year’s and starting the year fresh,” Walsh says. And they are constantly looking at new ways to improve.

I always say it’s not Mexico’s drug problem, it’s America’s drug problem.

“We put some good cases together. We’ve uncovered a lot of narcotics, a lot of guns, but my feeling is the more and more we recover— the more guns we recover, the more violence we associate with narcotics—it’s just an indication as a country that we’re not making any progress with the demand.”  

But drug addiction is the overarching issue.

“I always say it’s not Mexico’s drug problem, it’s America’s drug problem. We have a drug problem. The treatment and the things it’ll take for us to curtail the use, those efforts will have to be made collectively,” he says.

A case with no leads: Captain Walsh is asking the community to help with the homicide of  38-year-old David Teel. On October 11 sometime before 7 a.m. Teel, a military veteran, walked to the bus stop along Ogden Street, as he did every day. It was at 15th and Ogden Streets where someone jumped out of a car, shot and killed Teel. It is suspected that someone tried to rob him. Since speaking with Walsh on November 16, the department still has no leads and are asking anyone who has any information to come forward.

“This is one of the cases that we have not made any progress on,” he says. “This [crime] occurred on the street. It should horrify everyone in our community because this was just your average citizen who was trying to better his life, going to a trade school, walking to the bus stop, and for no reason at all his life ended.”

Anyone with information can contact Metro’s Homicide Section at 702- 828-3521 or homicide@lvmpd.com. For anonymous tips, contact Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555, crimestoppersofnv.com, or text CRIMESNV plus tip information to 274637 (CRIMES).

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