The Detective: Crime comes to the flower shop

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Illustration of a broken flower vase


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 29-April 4, 2021. 


? Reports of impersonation appear to be on the rise. On March 30, an unidentified individual attempted to impersonate some type of inspector. According to police, a 46-year-old man was sitting in his car in the Vermont Slauson neighborhood in South Los Angeles when the suspect approached him, pointed a gun and demanded money. Since 2010, the code for “suspect impersonates inspector” has been used 69 times. Two similar robberies were reported a week prior in Chinatown and Downtown


Just two days later, on April 1, an individual impersonating a contractor entered a home in Echo Park. During the incident, the suspect—who claimed to be a utility worker—took clothing and jewelry belonging to a 72-year-old woman. The LAPD classified the encounter as a bunco theft, defined as an effort to obtain property by trick or device. Since 2014, the code for “suspect impersonates contractor” has been used 42 times, while the code for “suspect impersonates DWP/Gas Company/Utility worker” has been employed 381 times. 


? Flower stores are not traditionally considered a target for thieves. However, a shop in Mission Hills was the site of a recent crime. On March 30, an individual smashed a window and ransacked the business. Video surveillance showed the suspect was wearing a hoodie and a cloth with cutout eye holes over their face. 


The code for “suspect wore cloth (with eyeholes)” has been used 60 times. Since 2011, there have been 95 reported burglaries at flower shops. The Mission Hills business was the site of two prior break-ins in 2019. 


? The Detective flagged a disturbing assault in San Pedro. On March 30, police responded to calls about an individual who had intimidated and attacked a 34-year-old man. During the altercation, the suspect placed the victim in a chokehold before tying him up and forcing him into a car; the victim also sustained stab wounds. The LAPD code for “rope/cordage used as binding” has been employed 86 times since 2010. 


? Four police officers were attacked at a park in Westlake on April 2. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, an unidentified individual aimed a gun and shot at the officers before fleeing. It is unclear what prompted the altercation, but the report asserts that the officers were targeted because they are members of law enforcement. No arrest has been made. Since the LAPD made its data publicly available, there have been 9,811 uses of the code for “crime related to victim’s employment.” Of those, 506 identified a police officer as a victim. 


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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