With Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo at his side, former President Donald Trump called Nevada “a cesspool of crime,” while endorsing Lombardo for governor in July.
Trump was roundly criticized in the news media for “missing the mark” on crime in Nevada. While guilty of bombastic overstatement, Trump touched on a fundamental truth – Americans are anxious about crime.
According to an April Gallup poll, 80% of Americans worry about crime and 53% worry a “great deal.”
A Council on Criminal Justice study of 22 U.S. cities found the number of homicides in 2021 was 44% higher than in 2019. The U.S. murder rate is at its highest level in nearly 25 years.
A total of 21,570 murders were committed nationwide in 2020, up nearly 30% from the previous year – the largest annual increase on record.
The dramatic increase in crime is the result of “decarceration” and “depolicing” policies being adopted.
“Decarceration” refers to the mass release of criminals from custody – both pretrial and post-conviction – as well as adoption of charging and plea-bargaining practices that prevent criminals from being charged in the first place.
“Depolicing” includes strategies to eliminate police (i.e., zeroing out their budgets) or to transform them into something unrecognizable as law-enforcement agencies.
The FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report ranked Nevada 12th highest among the 50 states in the violent crime category (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault).
There were a total of 460 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 people in Nevada in 2020, compared to 399 per 100,000 nationwide. That’s higher than neighboring California with 442 violent crimes per 100,000.
In 2019, the Nevada Legislature enacted AB 236, an omnibus bill signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak that “decriminalized” lower-level crimes, increased “diversion” programs for offenders in lieu of jail time and provided early release for state prison inmates.
The bill reduced penalties for burglary, weakened habitual criminal statutes, increased the benchmark at which theft became a felony, made parole violations more lenient, and reduced penalties for drug possession crimes.
Public safety advocates in Nevada also identify at least eleven other bills passed in the last two legislative sessions signed by Sisolak they characterize as “pro-criminal,” “anti-police” and/or “soft on crime.”
Nevada’s prison population dropped by more than 30% from 2020 to 2021. Those former prisoners are now “out on the street.”
In nominating Lombardo for governor, Republicans have an experienced candidate on crime issues.
He’s been a Las Vegas Metro police officer for 34-years – rising from beat cop. In 2014, Lombardo was elected Clark County sheriff and re-elected in 2018 with 73% of the vote, defeating four challengers.
Managing over 5,800 Metro police employees for the past seven years as sheriff, he administers a $715 million annual budget.
Lombardo touts that crime rates have gone down in Clark County since he became sheriff in 2015. He’s correct about county crime trends. Total crime decreased by 17% between 2015 and 2021. Violent crime is down 13%, a marked decline over the past four years.
Democrats identified Lombardo early as the strongest Republican opponent for Sisolak in 2022.
Hoping to face a weaker GOP candidate in November, Democrats took an unprecedented action by meddling in the June Republican primary in an effort to derail Lombardo’s candidacy.
The Democratic Governors Association spent $2.1 million, through a Nevada PAC, blanketing the airwaves portraying Lombardo as “soft on crime.” Their ad campaign (‘Slick Joe’) distorted his record as Clark County sheriff.
That cynical cross-party manipulation tactic failed.
The Nevada Police Union last year was harshly critical of Sisolak: “the most anti-union, anti-police governor we have ever worked for.”
Lombardo has endorsements from nearly every major law enforcement organization and by 16 of 17 Nevada county sheriffs.
For Nevada voters most concerned about crime, Lombardo has the clear edge in the governor’s race.
E-mail Jim Hartman at email@example.com.