Close quarters: ‘Suspect was roommate’

As coronavirus precautions drag on, roommate-on-roommate crime begins to spike

Crime has fallen by more than 20% across the City of Los Angeles since the safer-at-home order shut down all but essential businesses on March 19.


But at least one category has shown a spike: “suspect was roommate.”


Of course, on week four of the shutdown, it is no surprise that the person who not that long ago seemed like the “ideal roommate” because they were quiet and kept to themselves is now getting on your nerves. They finished off the last of the milk and still haven’t cleaned the bathroom.


Those frustrations are beginning to spill over into police data.


Roommate vs. roommate


The number of reports in which the roommate is listed as the potential perpetrator have actually soared by more than 50%. Last month, the Los Angeles Police Department recorded 124 crimes in which the roommate was listed as a suspect, up from just 82 during the same month a year ago.


That’s not all. The number of calls coming into the LAPD about roommates has also increased.


On March 23, four days after the safer-at-home order went into effect, the LAPD received

21 calls related to roommates, the highest number it has received so far this year. In February, the daily average was 11. The publicly available data only lists the topic of the call as “roommate,” and provides no additional details.


During March, the LAPD took a total of 393 calls about roommates, up 30.6% from the same month year ago.

A spark for domestic violence


Since authorities first began to issue orders to stay at home as part of the coronavirus precautions, experts have worried that close quarters could lead to a surge in cases of domestic violence. In fact, two days after LA went into lockdown, the LAPD saw a 240% spike in calls related to domestic violence.


The publicly available police data often doesn’t contain sufficient detail to discern the nature of these crimes. However, some reports do bear similarities to domestic abuse cases. For example, on March 27 in the Canoga Park neighborhood, a suspect in a wheelchair kicked the victim and hit them with a weapon. The data describes the victim as “current/former boyfriend/girlfriend.”


Other cases read more like typical roommate disputes.


On March 23, a roommate was accused of theft in North Hills. A day later, in the Vermont-Slauson neighborhood, a roommate allegedly hit the victim with a weapon, and used a choke hold on them.


How we did it: We used two sources of data: the publicly available LAPD crime data to identify instances of roommate-involved abuse for our overall statistics, and data on service calls relating to roommates to identify day-by-day reports of the same for the months of February and March. Our analysis specifically focuses on roommates, and did not include other data that is similar, such as crimes involving “cohabitants.”


The LAPD periodically updates past reports with new information, which sometimes leads them to recategorize past records. Those revised reports do not always automatically become part of the public database. We try to update our reporting when new data becomes available.


Want to know more? Or simply just interested in our data? Email us at