The Detective: An identity theft suspect pretends to be the victim

A rundown of recent and unusual criminal activity in Los Angeles

Illustration of a woman with an unknown identity


Crime in the city takes many forms, and incidents recorded by the Los Angeles Police Department can carry an unusual quality or element. The Detective, Crosstown’s data-crawling robot, with help from human assistant Cari Spencer, identified a few of the recent anomalies. This period covers Aug. 29–Sept. 4.


🔎 Identity theft in Los Angeles is at an all-time high, with the first half of 2022 producing more reports than any other six-month period since at least 2010. A recent case of identity theft in North Hollywood took a different turn. An individual who stole a 34-year-old woman’s identification was arrested at an ATM at noon on Sept. 1. Rather than admit to the crime, the suspect insisted to police that she was the victim herself. It didn’t fly. 


According to publicly available LAPD data, this marks the sixth time this year that someone has been using a stolen identity when they were arrested. Since 2010, there have been 245 incidents in which an individual posed as someone else to the cops. Nine of those incidents occurred last year. ln 2016 there were 28 such reports.


🔎 Do you look in the backseat of a car before getting in? A 37-year-old Sunland resident did, and the precaution paid off. On Sept. 2 at 9 a.m., the woman found someone hiding in the backseat of the vehicle parked near her home. An unspecified car part was stolen. 


This is the sixth time this year that a suspect has been hiding in the back of a car in the city; last year there were four such incidents. Since 2010, there have been 69 reports of a backseat suspect, according to LAPD data.


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🔎 Criminal threats are often made verbally. Other times it takes place online, and it is still a crime. On Aug. 31, an individual in a Westlake apartment received an intimidating message from an acquaintance. Details about the threat, received at 7:04 p.m., are slim, but according to police data it was related to an insurance matter. 


Since 2010, the LAPD has logged 108 crimes as being related to insurance. This marks the fourth insurance-affiliated incident this year. Last year, there were eight reports. 


🔎 Deception is a common tactic for thieves. This was the case on the afternoon of Aug. 29, when an unidentified individual pretended to offer or solicit information from a 15-year-old girl on a street in South Park. Then, the person tried to steal something the victim was wearing. It is unclear if anything was taken.


Since 2010, there have been 715 incidents in which a suspect pretended to offer or solicit information from someone. There were 118 reports in 2012, but the tactic has steadily decreased, to just nine incidents last year. This is the seventh case this year. 


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