The Detective: Snipping the purse strings

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Illustration of a purse's straps being cut


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. 20-26, 2021. 


🔎 Talking about insurance usually does not stoke passions. Yet the topic somehow recently turned a conversation into a dangerous confrontation. Details are slim, but according to the Los Angeles Police Department, two friends in the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw neighborhood got into a heated argument on Sept. 24 over the subject. One person pulled out a knife, prompting a call to police.


The LAPD has reported 103 crimes related to insurance since it made its data publicly available in 2010. However, this is the first time the department recorded someone brandishing a weapon over an insurance matter.


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🔎 Angelenos are always advised to keep a firm hand on a purse or bag they are carrying when strolling on the street. A 30-year-old man in Sun Valley had to learn this lesson the hard way. On Sept. 30, an individual approached the man and used a knife to cut the straps of his bag. The thief then ran off with it. Unspecified items were taken.


This kind of robbery can happen in the blink of an eye, and the LAPD has reported 388 similar thefts in the city since 2010. The majority of the victims are women whose purse strings are cut. Only 77 men have been reported as the victim of this crime.


🔎 A 61-year-old resident of Mission Hills had a terrifying encounter in his own front yard. According to the LAPD, on Sept. 23, a law enforcement officer approached the man and threatened to kill him. The man knew the officer, who brandished a gun in his waistband. It is unclear what department employs the officer. 


A police officer or jailer has only brandished a weapon at a person during this type of incident twice since 2010. However, the number of individuals showing weapons has quadrupled in the past decade, peaking in 2020 with 3,082 cases reported. So far in 2021, the LAPD has recorded 2,603 such incidents.


🔎 Vandalism happens all across Los Angeles, but an incident on Sept. 21 was particularly unsettling. That day, a 20-year-old Lincoln Heights resident had his car vandalized. According to police, the man was targeted based on a disability, and the incident also involved an anti-Jewish message.


The LAPD has recorded four vandalism incidents related to anti-disability sentiments since 2010. In three of these cases, the victim’s car was targeted.


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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