The Detective: What kind of person steals a family pet?

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Illustration of a sad dog


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 March 22-28, 2021. 


? On March 26, an unidentified individual broke into a home in Leimert Park. The residence was ransacked and unspecified items were stolen. What made the incident particularly heinous is that the thief also took an animal belonging to the 25-year-old victim. The police report did not specify what kind of pet was taken. Since 2017, the code for “theft of an animal (non-livestock)” has been used 76 times. Pet thefts gained attention last month when pop star Lady Gaga’s dog walker was shot and two French bulldogs were taken (the animals were later returned). On March 14, a 4-month-old Sheltie puppy was stolen from a home in Downtown


? A recent family dispute reached a disturbing level. On March 26, an unidentified individual threatened to kill a 29-year-old woman and three children—ages 3, 6 and 9—at an apartment building in Eagle Rock. The suspect, according to police, was related to the victims. Further details about what led to the altercation were unavailable. 


? Police responded to a troubling scene on March 25. A 40-year-old security guard told officers that an individual he knew approached him with a handgun at an apartment building in El Sereno. The suspect was arrested. In an unlikely turn of events, officers who responded to the call also found bones at the scene. It is unclear whether the remains are human or if they are directly related to the altercation. The code for “evidence collected is skeletons/bones” has been used 14 times in the last decade.


? Reports of “organized crime” bring to mind a host of images from mob films, though prosecutors have also occasionally used the term when going after street gangs. The phrase came up again on March 27 when an individual, who police identified as a known gang member, shot and killed a 35-year-old man on a street in East Hollywood. No arrest has been made. There have been 38 uses of the code “related to organized crime” since 2010. Prior to March 27, only one other homicide was listed as being directly related to organized crime. 


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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