The Detective: The fake mustache is out there

A university gets a bomb threat, and a citation misidentification
blue-tinted illustration of fake mustache
Graphic by Kiera Smith

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. This period covers July 27 – August 2, 2020.


? Donning a silly disguise while committing a crime doesn’t only happen in cartoons. On July 31, an individual wearing a fake mustache stole unspecified merchandise from a store in Wilmington (the suspect was also wearing a hoodie and a mask). Fake mustaches are a rare though not unheard-of occurrence when committing a crime. According to LAPD data, since 2010 there have been 27 incidents in which a suspect donned that type of faux facial hair when engaged in illegal activity.


? On July 28, an individual in Echo Park made an unspecified university the target of what LAPD data classified as a “bomb scare.” Details are slim, but according to police, the person was in a church at the time, and sent either threatening text messages or emails demanding money. Police have used the code “target is a university” six times in the last 11 years.


? There have been a number of criminal incidents recently in which a suspect impersonated someone else while committing a crime. That happened again on July 28 in Koreatown, but there was a twist: An individual wearing a hoodie used someone else’s name when receiving a citation. Police listed the incident as “other miscellaneous crime.”


How we did it: At Crosstown, we examine publicly available crime 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.


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