Much has been said, written, and guessed about the motives and methods of the gunman who killed 58 and wounded over 500 in Las Vegas in the late hours on Sunday, October 1. The event has placed much scrutiny on the police response and what the hotel knew before, if anything, or during the attack.
Witnesses to the Las Vegas massacre called the attacker’s actions like “shooting fish in a barrel.” The subject’s two shooting platforms inside his hotel room allowed him to rain down bullets in multiple directions on a large crowd stuck in the venue. Since we’re never really going to know the real reasons why the gunman wanted to kill so many people, it can help our recovery if we focus on prevention steps involving existing security concepts and some outside-the-box ideas. Part of preventing a similar attack will involve changing the vigilance perspective of the hotel employees, concert support staff, in-house or contract security staff, frequent on-site vendors, and even asking for more from awareness and notifications from hotel guests and concertgoers.
Much of the discussion about the attacker’s substantial collection of weapons focused on the question of “Why didn’t anyone on the hotel staff see him bringing all of those bags to his room?” The short answer is, this is Las Vegas and lots of people who stay in hotel rooms there bring food, liquor, luggage, or gear into their rooms. As an example, business people attending a tradeshow at the hotel may bring carts and carts of their booth equipment and material to their rooms before the event. This behavior should be seen as contextually appropriate.
But how could we identify a lone male bringing large bags into his room, that have a cylindrical shape or are made from the typical tactical nylon or hard-sided plastic casing, that could indicate the presence of a rifle, shotgun, or other long weapons? Consider the following possible hotel security procedural changes in large facilities:
- Train hotel maids and maintenance staff to engage with hotel guests beyond just saying hello, e.g., “Are you enjoying your stay, sir? Do you need anything added to or fixed for your room?” The key is to get the staff to look for abnormal behaviors or answers that could trigger a further security investigation.
- Train all maids, maintenance, or room service delivery employees to report any signs of firearms, ammunition, obvious weapons, narcotics, or paraphernalia in guest rooms, to the security staff for further investigation.
- Initiate more security patrols in the hallways of the hotel, not just the lobby and surrounding areas. Post security officers on hotel room floors for random 30-minute periods to watch for patterns, suspicious activities, and listen for sounds (or smells) that are out of context.
- Have security watch the video feeds for hotel room hallways at random intervals. Review previous video (at high speed) starting at check-in times and into the evening hours, to look for any abnormal guest behaviors.
- Similarly, review previous parking lot security video feeds (at high speed) during and after peak check-in times, to look for what is being loaded or unloaded from guest vehicles or brought into the hotel.
- Consider the need for hotel security investigators (not security officers) to do “knock and talks” at the doorways of any guests whose behaviors have raised security concerns. The local police may be asked to accompany these room visits.
- Have security investigators focus on any “hermit” guests who seem to check in but never leave for days at a time, and specifically don’t want maid service.