The Detective: Stopping lasers in the skies

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Illustration of a pilot seeing a laser


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, Catherine Orihuela. This period covers Dec. 7-Dec. 13, 2020. 


?  Projecting laser lights on your house during the holidays is fine, but using them in a way that potentially puts others at risk is not. On Dec. 8, police responded to a call in East Hollywood about someone pointing a laser at planes. At some point, the suspect attacked a police officer. Few details about the suspect and the altercation were available. Since the LAPD made its data publicly available in 2010, the code for “suspect points laser at plane/helicopter” has been used 57 times. 


?  On Dec. 7, an unidentified individual entered a medical marijuana facility in Los Feliz. The person, a stranger to the employees on hand, claimed to have been sent by the owner. At some point the person tried to steal unspecified property. The LAPD classified the encounter as a bunco attempt, which is an effort to obtain property by trick. The police code for a suspect claiming to have been “sent by owner” has been used 41 times in the last decade. 


Police were called to a family home in Pacoima on Dec. 11 to investigate a restraining order violation. They encountered a man who was related to the people in the residence. The suspect was experiencing homelessness at the time. Further details about the incident were unavailable. 


? The Detective flagged a report of aggravated assault at a halfway house in the Vermont-Slauson neighborhood on Dec. 7. There are no details about what led to the confrontation, but according to police, a suspect attacked and threw bottles at three men and one woman who lived in the building. Police arrested the individual, and no one was seriously injured. 


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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