The Detective: Crime at the front door

This week’s rundown of local incidents includes stolen property and ‘mailbox bombing’

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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. 21-Oct. 4, 2020.


? A troubling encounter on Sept. 26 sounds like something out of a gangster film. A 47-year-old man told police that an unidentified individual showed up at his home in Wilmington and demanded money. The suspect threatened to kill the man and took photos of him. A police report described the incident as extortion and related to organized crime. There have been 36 uses of the code “related to organized crime” since the Los Angeles Police Department started making its data publicly available in 2010.


? Homeland security doesn’t come up often in LAPD reports. In fact, the code for crime “relating to homeland security” has only been used 42 times. But it came into play on Sept. 23 when an unidentified individual stole a 21-year-old woman’s identity in a Granada Hills bank. Details are thin, but police also said the incident involved the unauthorized use of the victim’s bank account information.


? One doesn’t hear much about “mailbox bombing,” and the LAPD has recorded only 59 instances of the crime in the last decade. Yet there were two mailbox bombing reports on Sept. 27. They took place in a parking lot in the neighborhood of Florence. In the first incident, an unidentified individual used pepper spray or mace on a 30-year-old woman; police also classified the encounter as assault with a deadly weapon. In the second incident, a 41-year-old woman was threatened with a knife. An investigation into the attacks is ongoing.


? Another troubling encounter was recorded the next day in a different part of Los Angeles. On Sept. 28, someone approached a 53-year-old man at his home in Sun Valley. The suspect wielded a machete and attacked the man, leaving him disfigured, according to a police report. The LAPD said the victim knew the suspect, but there were no details as to what caused the confrontation.


? A 63-year-old man was the victim of a crime on Oct. 1 in Silver Lake. According to a police report, multiple unidentified suspects stole property, as well as some mail, from the man at a single-family home. Few details are available, but the police report said that, when one suspect was receiving a citation, the person tried to use the victim’s identity.


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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