The Detective: Why do people keep biting firefighters?

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

firefighter illustration


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, Taylor Mills. This period covers July 12-July 18. 


🔎 Firefighters must have thick skin for the job, but that doesn’t make biting one okay. A 35-year-old firefighter was bitten at a Woodland Hills hospital on July 14. What led to the altercation remains unclear, but the firefighter was also hit by the individual.


LAFD personnel have to deal with these uncomfortable encounters more often than the average person. This is the 19th biting assault reported against a firefighter, and the last time this happened was in May. 


🔎 Any threat is disturbing, but it can be particularly alarming when a family member impersonates someone from the underworld. On July 14 two parents in Vermont Square reported that their son threatened to kill them by impersonating satan. What led to these inciting words remains unclear, but this is the first time the LAPD has reported someone assuming the role of devil during a criminal threat since it made its data publicly available in 2010.


The pandemic brought out the worst in families. Los Angeles has seen higher levels of crimes involving a victim’s son – in June 2021 there were 125 incidents, compared with the 85 seen in June 2019. 


🔎 An early morning commute on public transit can be hectic – even without a looming bomb threat. On July 14 the Downtown 7th and Metro Center was on high alert after someone reported a bomb scare at the location. This was the first bomb scare reported at this specific location.


Typically, the LAPD responds to a few bomb scares per month, with 47 reported in 2021 so far. Overall there have been 11 bomb scares on Los Angeles public transit sites. 


🔎 Masks are mandatory for indoor shopping, but a suspect in Van Nuys opted for a motorcycle helmet while stealing from customers. On July 18 a 29-year-old woman in a department store was shopping when an individual snatched her car keys. 


Helmets prove to be effective disguises for people. According to the LAPD, 120 individuals have been reported with the headgear while committing a crime. However, this is the first time someone touted one in a department store. 


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. 


Questions about our data? Write to us at