The Detective: tough times for store employees

Weekly crimes include a storage facility burglary and a salesman ruse

illustration of business crime


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 Sept. 7-13, 2020.


? Local businesses are suffering enough with the coronavirus pandemic, so please, treat the workers kindly and with respect. On two recent occasions a store employee was targeted at their place of employment.


On Sept. 8, a 30-year-old woman was opening a business in Watts when she was assaulted by an unidentified juvenile. According to the police report, the woman knew the suspect, who was a student. The suspect threw rocks at her on the sidewalk in front of the business. 


Then, on Sept. 12, a 32-year-old man was closing up a cell phone store in Hyde Park when he was approached by an unidentified person. The suspect swung a fist at the man, then the situation turned even more serious as the individual pulled out a gun and pushed it up against the worker. The assailant forced the employee into the back of the store, and stole money and unspecified merchandise. At some point in the encounter the perpetrator hit the store employee, either with a hand or a weapon.


? Many people try to avoid salesmen, for a variety of reasons, but a recent encounter provides another impetus to be wary. On Sept. 7, according to an LAPD report, an unidentified individual impersonated a salesman as part of a theft at a multi-unit building in Toluca Lake. The incident was described as “theft: trick or device” and the victim was a 61-year-old woman. The faux salesperson either offered or asked for help as a set-up to committing the crime, which was identified as a grand theft. The code for impersonating a salesman has been used 141 times since the LAPD made its data publicly available in 2010, while “suspect offers/solicits assistance” has been employed 226 times. 


? One incident in this week’s Detective led to a dozen people being victimized. Early in the morning on Sept. 8, an unidentified person broke into a storage facility in Wilmington. The police report described the suspect as wearing a hood or hoodie, and using bodily force to gain entry to the building. The fact that there were 12 victims, who ranged in age from 24 to 72, implies that various storage units were broken into. An investigation is ongoing.


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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