The Detective: Tracking a train crime

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Illustration of train tracks


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 Aug. 2-8, 2021. 


? The last thing Metro wants is for anything to get off track, but an incident on Aug. 7 could have literally interrupted a rail line’s operation. At around 5:30 p.m., an unidentified individual managed to peel off a portion of the track used by trains on the A line (formerly known as the Blue line) in Central-Alameda, near the Washington station. 


This type of grand theft is exceedingly rare, with only four incidents reported since the LAPD made its data publicly available in 2010. The last time train tracks were reported stolen was in January 2019.


🔎 It’s not unusual for a jewelry seller to conduct intense negotiations with a customer over price. However, an Aug. 2 encounter at a Downtown shop proved more unpleasant than most. In early afternoon an individual entered a business on Hill Street and grabbed a salesman in the showroom. Unspecified merchandise was taken, and the LAPD said a vehicle was involved in the get-away.


Only 22 jewelry salespeople have been targeted at their place of employment in the last 11 years. This marks the fifth grand theft to occur at a jewelry store in the past month.


?🔎 The LAPD has fielded more than 2,000 shots-fired reports between Jan. 1-Aug. 8, but the Detective picked up on a rare piece of evidence booked on Aug. 2. An individual aimed a gun at an LAPD officer sitting in a car in Westlake, and during the investigation the police collected gunshot residue as evidence. 


This is only the third time this year the LAPD recorded this type of physical evidence, and since 2010 there have been just 150 reports, despite the thousands of firearms-related incidents occurring each year. By comparison, the LAPD has logged bullets or casings as evidence 17,246 times since 2010.


🔎 Thieves often wear concealing clothing in an effort to hide their identity, but an individual in Pico-Union took things to another level. According to police, the individual entered a cell phone repair store impersonating a customer. The thief donned a hoodie and a ski mask, and according to the LAPD, the individual also was wearing the clothing of a person of the opposite sex. Unspecified goods were taken.


Suspects wearing a hoodie are fairly common, but this is only the second time a person wearing one also was reported to be dressed in garb of the opposite sex. The last time a disguise like this was employed was in 2013 during a sidewalk robbery.


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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