The Detective: Follow the footprints

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Image of footprints


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. 30-Sept. 5, 2021. 


? Checking for fingerprints and footprints actually happens in real life, and not just on crime procedurals. On Sept. 4, police officers responded to a burglary that took place at an Encino home. An individual forced their way inside the house and took unspecified jewelry or clothing; the thief also found the car keys belonging to an 86-year-old man and drove off with his vehicle. Although the perpetrator fled the scene on four wheels, according to police, footprints were logged as evidence.


Since the onset of the pandemic, the rate of car keys being stolen has coincided with the spike in vehicles taken off the street. According to publicly accessible Los Angeles Police Department data, keys were snatched 58 times in July. 


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? The LAPD does not frequently conduct sting operations. However, one that took place on Aug. 30 may help identify the person behind a series of car break-ins in Exposition Park. According to the LAPD, multiple individuals approached a vehicle on Exposition Boulevard, and one smashed a 63-year-old man’s window. It is not clear if anyone was arrested.


Including this operation, there were five thefts from vehicles in this neighborhood in August. Only 50 so-called “bait operations” have been executed by the LAPD since 2010. Eleven of these were carried out in 2020, targeting stolen bicycles and cars.


? Commuters may have been disturbed by an incident that occurred on Coolidge Avenue in Mar Vista. On Sept. 3, an individual in the passenger seat of a vehicle fired a shot out a window at a 32-year-old man in another car; as part of the attack, the driver rammed the victim’s car. The victim managed to leave the scene unharmed, and the LAPD procured video surveillance.


This marks the first time the LAPD has reported a drive-by shooting also becoming a traffic collision.   


? Plenty of people wear unique or unusual clothing, but such a description rarely makes it into a police report. Yet that happened on Aug. 31. Witnesses saw an individual break into a mini-mart in San Pedro and steal some merchandise before escaping in a car. LAPD data listed the assailant wearing “unusual” clothing, though no specifics on the thief’s sartorial tastes were revealed. 


This is not the first time a person with an “unusual” taste in fashion has targeted a mini-mart. There was a burglary with the same description in January 2018. Altogether, the LAPD listed seven crimes at mini-marts in August.


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