The Detective: Bomb scares and impersonation attempts

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Illustration of a bomb on a bench


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 April 26-May 2, 2021. 


? Los Angeles recorded a grim milestone on May 2: the highest daily number of assaults with a deadly weapon in at least a decade. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, there were 69 incidents involving handguns, other weapons and pepper spray; this marked the highest tally since the LAPD began making its data publicly available in 2010. The youngest victim, an 18-year-old man, was attacked by a suspect wielding a semi-automatic pistol. The oldest was a 64-year-old man who was attacked with a blunt instrument. According to police reports, only three arrests have been made. 


Eight of the assaults on May 2 happened in Exposition Park in what police are calling a gang-related shooting. 


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? The Detective flagged a report of an assault involving a bomb in Pacoima on April 26. According to police, an unidentified individual  attacked a 29-year-old man on a Metro bus. The assailant hit, kicked and swung a fist at the victim. No arrest has been made and it is unclear precisely how a bomb was involved in the incident. Since 2010, the code for “suspect uses explosives for illegal purposes” has been used 10 times.


? Police responded to a bomb scare in Westchester on the morning of April 29. Details are thin, but according to the LAPD, officers found an explosive device at an airport facility after receiving a verbal threat from an unidentified person. No arrest has been made. The code for “Bomb Scare” has been used 1,290 times since 2010. In more than two-thirds of the incidents an explosive device has been discovered. 


? Reports of impersonation continue to occur in Los Angeles, and the Detective recently flagged three separate cases. The first happened in North Hollywood on April 29. According to police, an 18-year-old woman was walking down the street when she was approached by someone pretending to be a salesman. The man then knocked her to the ground and sexually assaulted her. Further details about the woman’s condition were unavailable. The code for “suspect impersonates salesman” has been used 148 times since 2010. 


Another incident occurred in the Vermont Slauson neighborhood on April 30. Police said an unidentified individual pretended to be a victim in need of aid. When a 34-year-old man sought to provide help, the faux victim pushed and knocked the man to the ground. The suspect then robbed the man and stole his car. The code for “suspect impersonates aid victim” has been utilized 225 times in the last decade. 


The third incident occurred in Van Nuys on May 2, when an unidentified individual approached two men while pretending to be looking for someone. According to police, the person then attacked and shot at the men. No one was hit in what police classified as a gang-related incident. No arrest has been made. Since 2010, the code for “suspect impersonates seeking someone” has been used 92 times. 


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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