The Detective: A bumper week for car thefts

Flying objects and gunshots at inhabited dwellings also figure in this week’s round-up of reported crimes

illustration of car theft


Here are a few recent anomalies in Los Angeles Police Department data found by the Detective, our data-crawling robot, and aggregated by the robot’s human assistant Lauren M. Whaley. This period covers Oct. 19-25, 2020.


?  Car thefts in Los Angeles have hit record numbers in the coronavirus era, most likely due to parked vehicles being sitting ducks. Some weeks in June saw more than 500 reported stolen cars, and the level remained elevated in July and August. 


Numbers have dipped from those highs, but this week was still a doozy, with 420 reported stolen. This week, thieves were most active in Westlake, where 18 were reported stolen. Thirteen went missing in each of the following neighborhoods: Boyle Heights, Downtown, San Pedro, Vermont Square and Wilmington. Forty-three of the cars had no neighborhood associated with the theft.


Car thefts so far this year are outpacing last year’s level by 36.5%. From Jan. 1-Oct. 25, 2019, there were 12,337 stolen cars. From Jan. 1-Oct. 25, 2020, there were 16,837, a difference of 4,500 vehicles. 


Throwing objects at moving vehicles pops up surprisingly frequently in LAPD data. There were 169 reported incidents from Jan. 1-Oct 25 of this year, similar to the 175 reported during the same time last year.


Despite their regularity, the Detective flagged the crime in this week’s data, noting nine incidents in a single week (two other weeks this year also had nine). In one incident, at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 19, a 41-year-old woman in a car was the victim at Hollywood and Gower when a stranger, also in a vehicle, threw an unspecified object at her. Along with the thrown object, LAPD data listed vandalism and road rage. 


The Detective this week flagged 14 instances of shots fired at an inhabited dwelling. Seven of those were recorded between 10:40 – 10:45 p.m. on Oct. 22 on the 9900 block of Graham Ave. in Watts. The data show the seven victims ranging in age from 10 to 53. The department marked the incident as gang-related. 


For the week of Oct. 19-25, 2020, the Detective also flagged nine reported crimes of indecent exposure. 


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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