The Detective: Animals can be victims too

Returning stolen property, and a misguided religious leader

illustration of a crosstown ID card


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 August 3-16, 2020.


? It is always unsettling when a crime involves an animal. That was the case twice recently.


Police reported an instance of animal neglect on August 8 in North Hollywood. The conditions and the type of neglect were not specified, but the incident also involved a crime involving credit card fraud or theft of services via the Internet. Cases of animal neglect have only been reported to the police 108 times since the LAPD made its data publicly available in 2010, although it is possible that some complaints are taken to other organizations that deal with animal cruelty.


The second incident occurred on August 13, when shots were fired at an animal in an Elysian Valley yard. Neither the type of gun nor the animal at risk were revealed, though a police report identified a 33-year-old woman as also being a victim. It is unknown if the animal suffered any harm. 


? A local religious leader may need to do some reflection and soul searching after a recent crime in Westlake. On August 12, an individual identified as a current or former priest or pastor vandalized unspecified property in a multi-unit building. The victim knew the suspect, though how is not clear. A police report listed the incident as a “dispute involving business.”


? A suggestion to aspiring criminals: Don’t try to return pilfered property to the establishment that was victimized. That is apparently what happened at a home improvement store in Panorama City on August 13. According to an LAPD report, an unidentified man sought to return stolen goods. The crime was listed as a “bunco-attempt.” The code “returned stolen property” has only been used 29 in the last 11 years.


? A driver in Northridge had a frightening encounter on August 15. A 37-year-old man got into his car, only to be surprised by someone hiding in the rear seat. The suspect, who was wearing a mask and a hat, according to the LAPD, put a handgun to the victim’s body. The incident was described as a carjacking, a crime that occurred frequently in the 1990s in Los Angeles, but now is much more rare.


? Did someone call a repairman? On August 16, an unidentified individual stole a 34-year-old man’s identification card or driver’s license. The incident, which occurred on a MTA bus in East Hollywood, was listed as a “crime related to public transit.” At some point during the altercation, the hat-wearing suspect chatted with the victim, and either offered or solicited some unspecified repairs. That type of incident has been recorded 68 times in the last decade.


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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