The Detective: The inspector may be an impostor

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Illustration of an inspector at the door


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 Jan. 4-Jan. 9, 2021. 


?  The community of Boyle Heights on Jan. 9 recorded the kind of grim milestone no neighborhood ever wants to experience: the highest daily number of gun crimes in at least a decade. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, there were 11 reported incidents involving handguns and other firearms; it was the highest tally since the LAPD began making its data publicly available in 2010. The incidents included aggravated assault, shots fired at homes and one homicide, where the victim was a 59-year-old man. The youngest victim was 7, though it is unclear if the child suffered any injuries. According to the police reports, no arrests have yet been made in any of the cases. 


?  Hate crimes in Los Angeles rose 16% in 2020, and another one was reported on a North Hollywood street on Jan. 5. According to police, an unidentified individual harassed and threatened to kill a 38-year-old man with a physical disability. The victim was targeted based on the disability, according to the LAPD. The code for crimes in which victims have been “targeted based on disability” has been used 31 times since 2010.


?  There are all manner of attempts to get into a home. An especially unusual scheme was tried on Jan. 7 in the Harbor Gateway neighborhood. According to the LAPD, an unidentified person approached a home and pretended to be an inspector. The code for “suspect impersonates inspector” has been used 66 times since 2010. The Jan. 7 incident is only the third reported in the area, following cases in 2011 and 2016. 


The Detective flagged yet another spike in daily car thefts on Jan. 8. According to the LAPD, five cars were reported stolen from the 1300 block of North Highland Avenue in Hollywood. Details about the victims and suspects involved were unavailable. 


Prior to this incident, there were only eight other reported car thefts on the block from 2015-2019. In fact, police had never before received reports of more than one car being stolen on the block in a day.


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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