- Associated Press - Sunday, May 29, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A nondescript warehouse off the Las Vegas Strip is now a new courtroom for cases against those who illegally sell goods in the city’s most crowded tourism corridor.

Clark County officials are hoping a pilot program will keep illegitimate vendors off the streets but out of overcrowded jails, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1UmJRjz).

County commissioners recently approved the program.

“Many people don’t know the rules,” Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick said. “This will help educate them.”

Commercial activities have been banned from sidewalks and pedestrian bridges since the county passed new rules in 2012.

Capt. Chris Tomaino said there are about 20 fewer officers than needed to patrol the resort corridor. Officers have been working nights and weekends while focusing on more serious crimes.

“Historically, it’s like trying to empty out the ocean with a teaspoon,” he said.

Officers on overtime are boosting efforts on the Strip for the next two months.

“Is it the same as dealing drugs? Absolutely not,” Tomaino said.

Some vendors have sold refilled water bottles and CD’s that turn out to be blank. These encounters can turn into robberies. “We were trying to find a way to deal with it without making a mountain out of a molehill,” Tomaino said.

The county-owned building cost $45,000 to turn into a courtroom. An air conditioning unit was recently installed, and a mobile truck provides bathroom facilities.

People take a number and are called in turn to one of three cubicles equipped with the bare minimum required of a courtroom.

The courtroom keeps jail space open for violent offenders, county spokesman Erik Pappa said. “It’s bare bones,” Pappa said.

Fines range from $250 to $1,000.

Offenders can avoid criminal cases by acknowledging civil liability, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure said.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, https://www.lvrj.com

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