The Detective: Criminal impressions

Suspects claiming to be a gardener, a door-to-door salesman

Purple illustration of garden shears to show that a suspect used shears as a weapon


Here are a couple of recent anomalies in Los Angeles Police Department data found by the Detective, our data-crawling robot, and aggregated by the robot’s human assistant, Kylie Storm.


? You may be used to watching your personal belongings when riding public transit, but have you ever had to protect yourself from someone working on the system?


According to the Los Angeles Police Department, on July 2 a 23-year-old man was the victim of a theft. The suspect? A train operator, who took unspecified property from the man while they were in a Mid-City parking lot and then ran off. If you’re surprised, so are we –– the code the LAPD used for this, “suspect was train operator,” has only popped up 18 times since 2010.


?  Apparently, impersonations in Los Angeles is now a crime trend. A pair of incidents from June 29 to July 5 both included the LAPD code “suspect impersonated.” 


The first occurred in Harbor Gateway on July 1, when an individual pretending to be a salesman knocked on the door of a 33-year-old woman. Later, the woman found that some clothing and jewelry went missing.


The second incident involved a much rarer MO code. On July 3, a 53-year-old Encino woman was threatened by an individual impersonating a gardener/tree trimmer. The suspect threatened to kill her, and at some point had also sent threatening emails or text messages to the woman. The code the LAPD used for this, “suspect impersonates gardener/tree trimmer,” has only been used 21 times in the past 11 years.


? Hate crime has been on the rise in Los Angeles. During the first half of 2020, hate crimes rose by 6%, with Black and Asian people experiencing the largest increases. The troubling trend continued on July 5 in the Vermont-Slauson neighborhood, when a 20-year-old Black transgender woman was assaulted with what police termed an explosive device. The suspect also threatened to kill her.


The department categorized it both by “victim targeted based on sexual orientation” and “Bias: Anti-Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual or Transgender (Mixed Group).”


Battery-simple assault is common in Los Angeles. In the first six months of 2020, more than 8,000 incidents of simple assault occurred. But a July 4 incident stood out, as according to a police report, six people fell victim to simple assault, at the same location and same time.


The crime, which occurred in a Westlake driveway at 9:50 p.m., involved a stranger exiting a vehicle and attacking the victims, five of whom were described as pedestrians. 


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.


Questions about our data? Write to us at