The Detective: Don’t hand moving boxes to strangers

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Illustration of a moving truck with boxes


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. 23-29, 2021. 


🔎 Boxes may become overbearing during a move, but that doesn’t mean they should trustfully be handed off to strangers. A 26-year-old woman moving out of her Downtown building learned that lesson on Aug. 28. An individual she did not know approached her, claiming to have been sent by the building owner to aid with her move. She gave him some of her belongings and the man drove off; the boxes never reached the intended destination. 


Having a household packed and ready for transport makes for an easy theft target. According to publicly accessible data from the Los Angeles Police Department, 319 crimes have been committed since 2010 against people in the middle of a move. The most recent grand theft occurred on Aug. 16 from a house in Vermont Square.


🔎 Usually burglars take the property and run, but one incident in Westlake came with additional damage. On Aug. 28, a 34-year-old woman found someone had broken a window on her car and taken unspecified items. However, it wasn’t until she tried to start the vehicle that she discovered a virus in the car’s computer system. It is unclear if this was implanted by the thief, or somehow was a mechanical malfunction resulting from the break-in.


There are thousands of burglaries from vehicles in Los Angeles every year. This is the first time since 2014 that LAPD data identified a virus in a car system after such an incident. 


🔎 A 33-year-old man had a frightening encounter after a night of drinking. At 3 a.m. on Aug. 29 he was driving in North Hills, when suddenly he was confronted by an individual who had been hiding in his back seat. The assailant brandished a gun and demanded the man pull over and get out of the car. The thief sped off. When police arrived they determined that the victim was intoxicated.


Victims are often in the vehicle at the time of a carjacking. However, the crime rarely involves a hideout. This is only the 15th robbery where an individual hid in the back of the car. 


🔎 Keeping with the trend of car crimes, an unusual vandalism incident took place in Downtown on Aug. 26. An unidentified individual on a bike rode up alongside a driver to offer some kind of information. Details of what happened next are slim, but the interaction escalated into the cyclist breaking one of the car’s windows. 


Vandals typically don’t interact with their victim at the time of destruction. This is only the third time a case of vandalism was reported after a suspect offered information. The last incident was in 2018. 


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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