The Detective: Fraud at the ATM machine

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Illustration of a woman with an unknown identity


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 Sept. 6-12, 2021. 


🔎 A 27-year-old knew she was not responsible for an ATM withdrawal made at 4 a.m. on Sept. 4. How could she be so sure? She was incarcerated at the time. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, an individual used her PIN number to take out money at a machine in Florence. While it is unclear how much cash went missing, the crime was also classified as identity theft.


So far in 2021, there have been more ATM thefts with stolen pin numbers than in any other year since the LAPD made its data publicly accessible in 2010. The department reported 1,047 incidents at cash withdrawal machines, a huge jump from the 765 thefts in 2015, the next-highest year. 


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🔎 A blessing was an attempted crime in disguise in Westlake. On Sept. 10, an individual approached a 51-year-old woman on the street, and offered to bless her, while also asking for money.  At some point during the encounter, other people appeared and tried to pull the woman into a vehicle. 


This marks the first time someone was almost kidnapped while in Westlake this year. People offering blessings to lure victims is an unusual tactic, with only three such incidents occurring since 2010.


🔎 Shoppers may want to watch their plastic carefully when heading to a Century City business. On Sept. 12, a department store employee was found to have committed credit card theft while on the job. The individual impersonated the victim in the store’s computer system and used their card number to purchase unspecified items.


According to LAPD data, this is the fifth time since 2010 that a store employee has committed grand theft through credit card fraud. A related incident occurred in Century City on May 7, when an employee took money from a cash register. 


🔎 Restraining orders are typically utilized to enforce physical distancing, but people can also be targeted digitally. On Sept. 10, a 63-year-old man in Sylmar reported that an individual he had filed a restraining order against sent threatening messages. According to police, the individual either texted or emailed the victim, saying they would hurt the person’s family.


So far in 2021, there have been 1,965 cases of restraining orders being violated. Since 2010, there have been 126 accounts of restraining orders being violated through text message or email. 


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