The Detective: The danger of unruly crowds

A rundown of some of the week’s crimes

detective with microscope illustration


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 Oct. 5-11, 2020.


? Large peaceful protests have been part of the landscape in Los Angeles since the May killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Protesters again took to the streets on Oct. 5, after an unarmed Black man, Jonathan Price, was shot and killed by police in North Texas (an officer has been arrested and charged with murder). While many protesters congregated near the Police Administration Building in Downtown, others moved to nearby streets. Although a police report from the evening does not specify the involvement of protesters, it does detail damage to an office building “equal to or exceeding $25,000,” with the activity occurring near where vandalism was reported. The police code for more than $25,000 in damage has only been used 30 times since the LAPD made its data publicly available in 2010. The report added that police have video surveillance of the incident.


? Another incident that began peacefully in Downtown also went in an unintended direction. After the Lakers won the NBA championship on Oct. 11, thousands of fans showed up to celebrate outside Staples Center. While many partied and cheered safely, a small contingent broke off and vandalized nearby properties, and a police report from the evening states that more than $25,000 in damage was done to some type of “Public Transit.” The report also refers to multiple suspects and arson. Although the police report does not detail a specific target of the damage, or mention the basketball celebration, news coverage from that night shows a crowd climbing on top of a Metro bus and someone setting a fire inside the vehicle. Police said photographs were taken of the incident.


? On Oct. 8, an unidentified person attempted to rob a 23-year-old man in North Hollywood. The situation began on the street, and the knife-wielding suspect, who police said was experiencing homelessness, at some point followed the victim to his home. Photographic evidence was collected, and the suspect was also described as being in possession of weapons or ammunition. 


? In Exposition Park on Oct. 6, eight people were victims of an incident that police described as shots fired at a moving vehicle. Details are limited, but the incident appears to involve one or more suspects who used an unknown number of firearms to shoot either at a Metro bus or some of its passengers. The report said no one was hit.


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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