The Detective: An arson call at a big box store

A rundown of recent criminal activity in Los Angeles

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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. 18-24, 2021. 


🔎 The weekend crowds at big box stores are sure to cause aggravation, but they don’t call for setting the building on fire. The details are slim, but on Oct. 19 the Los Angeles Police Department responded to an arson threat at a Harbor Gateway location. It is unclear if anything actually burned.


This is the first police arson report at such an establishment. However, these spots are no stranger to criminal activity. According to publicly available data from the LAPD, shoplifting has been reported 689 times at this type of membership store since 2010.


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🔎 Food trucks bring a variety of fast and convenient eats to Los Angeles streets, but an incident on Oct. 22 in Downtown was a reminder that they can also attract crime. A 32-year-old woman was waiting in line at a truck on Seventh Street when a stranger snatched her purse and ran off with it. According to LAPD data, the value of her stolen belongings amounted to more than $950, making it a case of grand theft.


Catering or ice cream trucks have been the scene of 64 crimes in Los Angeles since 2010, according to the LAPD. This is only the second instance of grand theft at a mobile food location. The last one occurred in September 2019.


🔎 Power outages are always distressing, and the first thing most people do is check to see if the juice has gone out on the entire block. It was a different scenario for a Vermont Knolls resident on Oct. 24. At 5:30 p.m. the electricity suddenly went out in the person’s home. It turned out that the culprit was not a blown fuse or transformer, but rather a landlord or neighbor who, for unrevealed reasons, had cut the power.


The LAPD logged the tampering with the property’s electricity as vandalism, making it only the third time since 2010 such a crime has been reported. So far in 2021, there have been 88 incidents of vandalism in Vermont Knolls. 


🔎 When visiting Los Angeles and checking out the sites, a car is essential. An incident on Oct. 20 reminds vacationers—or anyone, really—to be certain that a parking spot is secure, and to make sure nothing of value is left in the vehicle. According to the LAPD, a 30-year-old tourist left her car in Elysian Park that day. When she returned, she found that someone had broken in. Unspecified belongings were missing. 


Crimes against tourists have spiked in 2021, with 82 reported between Jan.1-Oct. 24. That is up from the 55 in all of 2020, though the pandemic certainly had a lot to do with the low number last year. This is the first crime with a tourist as the victim reported in Elysian Park.


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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