The Detective: An early case of coronavirus bigotry

Anomalous LAPD crime reports from Feb. 22 - Mar. 8


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.


?Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Anti-Asian incidents have become extremely visible in the news, from countless anecdotes of racism and xenophobia in cities across the country to our own president referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” There’s even a new nonprofit specifically for Asians to report coronavirus-related racism. 


And the City of Los Angeles is no exception. At 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 21, a 39-year-old Asian man was assaulted on the street in Mid-Wilshire, near Koreatown.


According to LAPD data, a stranger punched and yelled “hate-related” slurs at the man, for reasons unknown. The crime was tagged with one of the LAPD’s new hate crime codes, 1513: “Bias: Anti-Asian.” 


Lessons of the week? Stay inside, and don’t be a bigot.


?In non-coronavirus-related news, watch out for violent Barneys, Darth Vaders, or Spidermen. At 9:25 a.m. on Feb. 21, a suspect working as a costumed character in Hollywood committed an assault. The victim? Another costumed character.


According to LAPD data, the costumed victim was a 46-year-old white man, hit by his fellow character on Orange St. 


It’s not clear exactly which characters were feuding (the data only gives those three aforementioned details), but this isn’t the first time these seemingly lovable icons have had public beef. Characters in New York City’s Times Square have been often criticized for acting “out of control,” and in 2013, a man dressed as Elmo was even sentenced for going on an “anti-Semitic tirade” while in costume.


In LA, these incidents seem far rarer. This is the first time in 2020 that MO code 2039, “Victim was a costumed character,” has been used in LAPD data, and the seventh time since 2010. This is the third time, however, that MO code 2012, “Suspect was a costumed character,” has been used in 2020, and the 11th time since 2010. 


The only other time the two codes were used in tandem was in 2017, in another assault between characters in Hollywood. I guess wearing that costume all day can make a person tense.


?Tourists, watch out (again). At 8 p.m. on Feb. 17, a tour bus operator assaulted one of their passengers, a 38-year-old black female.


According to LAPD data, the tour bus operator kicked the passenger on the bus at the intersection of Vignes St. and Cesar E. Chavez Ave. in Downtown (yes, tour buses go Downtown … not sure what they see, though, besides office buildings and overpriced coffee shops).


MO code 2013, “Suspect was a Tour Bus/Van Operator,” has been used only eight times since 2010, and this is the first incident in 2020. So even though it may be rare, be sure to read reviews of tourist traps before you go. 


And make sure to only interact with characters who don’t look like they’re about to get into a fight (And tip them, while you’re at it! It’s not an easy job.)


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 the 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.