The Detective: Another batch of car break-ins

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Illustration of car with broken window


Here are some 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. 11-Jan. 17, 2021. 


?  On Jan. 14, the community of Silver Lake recorded its highest daily number of car break-ins since December 2019. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, thieves broke into and ransacked five vehicles, and jewelry, clothing, packages and other items were taken. The majority of the incidents occurred in residential areas. It is unclear if police believe the crimes were committed by a break-in ring, a practice that has occurred in other neighborhoods such as Downtown. The LAPD frequently urges car owners never to leave any items of even minor value in a vehicle, as they can be targets for thieves. 


?  A 26-year-old woman had a discomforting encounter on Jan. 17.  She told police that she found a letter with sexually suggestive comments left for her outside of her home in Sylmar. Details about the contents of the letter, or who may have left it, were unavailable. 


Since the LAPD made its data publicly available in 2010, there have only been two similar reported incidents, one in 2017 and the other in 2020. 


?  Reports involving the word “bombing” are always unsettling. On Jan. 15, police responded to calls about a bomb threat aboard a train in Chinatown. After conducting a thorough search of the train an explosive device was found. Further details about the incident, the type of incendiary device and the suspect were unavailable. 


Since 2010, there have been 185 reports of bomb possession in the city, but only 13 of those resulted in an explosive device being found. Prior to the incident on Jan. 15, the most recent reported threat that involved a bomb being discovered was in September 2018. 


A 24-year-old woman in Westlake called the police to report a “Peeping Tom” outside of her apartment on Jan. 17. Following California Penal Code, the LAPD defines a Peeping Tom as someone who “secretly [looks] through a window, doorway, keyhole, or other aperture for the purpose of voyeurism.” According to the report, an unidentified suspect wearing a handkerchief around their nose and mouth stalked the victim and followed her to her apartment. No arrest was made. 


Since 2010, the code for “Peeping Tom” has been used 1,260 times. Twenty-six of those incidents were reported in Westlake, and three have occurred since May 2020. 


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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