The Detective: A collection of car crimes

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

Stolen cars in Los Angeles


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 Oct. 4-10, 2021. 


🔎 When it comes to street crimes, the set-up can seem innocuous. A 31-year-old woman in the Palms neighborhood unfortunately found that out. On Oct. 5, an unidentified individual approached the woman, who was sitting in her car, and asked for the time. As she looked and began to respond, multiple people surrounded the vehicle. They proceeded to force her from the car, then they climbed in and drove away. 


Since the Los Angeles Police Department made its data publicly accessible in 2010, there have been 254 incidents in which a suspect asked the victim for the time. Only once before had the tactic been employed as part of a carjacking; that was in August 2020.


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🔎 This month, Los Angeles recorded its highest weekly car theft total in more than a year. From Oct. 3-9, 521 vehicles in the city went missing. This continues a recent spike. It also marks the highest number since early in the pandemic; from June 28-July 4, 2020, the LAPD recorded 541 car theft reports. 


On Oct. 9 alone, 85 vehicles were stolen, with the most victimized community being Boyle Heights, where seven cars were taken. Downtown, North Hollywood and Westlake each saw four vehicles go missing.


🔎 We’ll say this one more time: Always lock your car, even if you are just running into a store for a minute. On Oct. 7, a 31-year-old woman returned to her vehicle in a Van Nuys parking lot after quickly doing some shopping. Someone whom police identified as an “intimate partner” sprung up from the back seat and grabbed her. 


Only 64 times since 2010 have people hid out in a back seat while committing a crime. This marks the fifth time that a potential domestic violence case involved an individual attacking from the rear of a car. 


🔎 Road rage doesn’t automatically stop when the engine is turned off. According to police, on Oct. 9, a 35-year-old man parked his car in Pacoima. Someone was waiting inside a building for the driver, and pointed a gun at him. 


Details are slim and it is not quite clear how this relates to road rage, but according to police this marks the first time someone has hid in a building in relation to hostility behind the wheel. This is also only the second time someone brandished a weapon during a property stake-out. The last time was in a Sawtelle apartment complex 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. 


Questions about our data? Write to us at