The Detective: check your back seat

Anomalous LAPD crime reports from Dec. 10 - 17, 2019


Here are a couple of recent anomalies in LAPD data found by the Detective, our data-crawling robot, and aggregated by the robot’s human assistant, Kate Lý Johnston.


? If you’ve learned anything from urban legends, always check the back seat before getting into your car. At 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 14, 2019, a stranger broke into a 53-year-old white man’s car and hid in the rear seat in order to commit a burglary.


According to LAPD data, the car was street parked on the 2100 block of Parnell Ave. in West Los Angeles. The suspect also ended up smashing the windows, and taking property from the car.


Suspects do not often hide in the back seat  –– in fact, MO Code 1303, “Hid in Rear Seat,” has been used only 55 times in LAPD data since 2010. Still, it happens. While the fact-checking website Snopes has debunked the myth of the killer sneaking into the backseat of a solo woman’s car, in over half of these LAPD cases, the victim was female.


? Buddhism does not have one race. Still, its practitioners can be targeted.


At 10 p.m. on Dec. 11, 2019, a suspect threatened to kill a security guard in an apartment building on the 100 block of East 5th St. in Downtown.


While criminal threats happen every day in Los Angeles, what makes this incident stand out is that, according to LAPD data, the security guard was a 27-year-old black female Buddhist. 


The crime was tagged with MO Code 1522: “Anti-Buddhist,” indicating that the verbal threat was influenced by the suspect’s personal biases against Buddhism. This is part of the LAPD’s collection of bias-related codes, implemented last year.


This is the first time, though, that the Anti-Buddhist code has been used in LAPD data. And hopefully (but not likely) the last.


How we did it: 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 LAPD publicly available 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.


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