The Detective: Attempted lynching

Anomalous crime reports Aug. 5 - 21, 2019

At Crosstown, we examine publicly available crime report data from multiple Los Angeles County law enforcement agencies. We have a robot on the team called the Detective that scans the LAPD data for anomalies. LAPD officers tag most crime reports in their system with MO codes, for “modus operandi,” Latin for operating method or style. The MO codes are shorthand for describing what happened in a crime incident.


Here are a couple recent examples of what the Detective has found, aggregated by the robot’s human assistant, Kate Lý Johnston.


?The first week of August saw a spike in an unusual crime code: Lynching – Attempted.


On August 9, the Detective caught three cases of attempted lynching in Florence, followed by another two on August 10 and 11. The only other case of lynching or attempted lynching in 2019 was back in April. There were five lynching cases total in 2018.


While five lynchings over three days this August may seem alarming, lynching may not what most people think it is. The California Penal Code defines lynching as “the taking of a person from the lawful custody of a peace officer by means of a riot.” meaning someone tried to run from being arrested or detained. Or their friends helped them escape custody somehow.


These five cases all had Hispanic male victims and took place in parking lots or streets, according to publicly available LAPD data. The victims for all five cases were also described as being homeless or transient. 


?On August 7, the Detective caught the rare code 0547: Suspect forced victim to bathe/clean/wipe.


While bathing may seem like it would make for a humorous crime, this incident was a little more nuanced and gruesome. It was tagged as an incident of domestic violence, involving two homeless partners in Echo Park


The victim, a 38-year-old white man, was hit with a semi-automatic pistol, which was obtained at the scene. 


The incident was also tagged with crime code 815: Sexual penetration with foreign object. 


Between this and the lynching incidents, it seems people experiencing homelessness suffered a little more than usual this week. But homeless victims are not uncommon to see, as crimes involving homelessness have been skyrocketing this year.


This news comes at the same time as the City controller’s recent report on how LA’s top homeless outreach agency isn’t doing its job.