Pickpocketing in Los Angeles continues to climb

Thieves steal phones and wallets, often targeting bars and nightclubs

Illustration of a hand stealing an item from a woman's backpack, with orange background


In 2022, Angelenos returned in large numbers to nightclubs, bars and other spots. As they showed up, so did an unwelcome sector: pickpockets.


Pickpocketing in the city soared last year, with 1,027 reports of someone’s wallet, phone or other item of value surreptitiously stolen, according to publicly available Los Angeles Police Department data. That was up nearly five-fold from the pre-pandemic year of 2019.


The situation is continuing in 2023; the 115 pickpocketing reports in March is the second-highest monthly total in at least a decade. 


Line chart of monthly pickpocketing incidents in Los Angeles.


It is unclear why current counts are so much higher than before COVID-19. More people might be reporting incidents, or thieves could have become more adept at lifting phones from a back pocket in a busy bar or on the dance floor of a club.


Whatever the case, LAPD spokesman Officer Drake Madison said in an email that the increase serves as a reminder for people to safeguard their possessions.  


The best way to not become a victim is to always be aware of your surroundings, maintain control of your property (i.e. purse, wallet, phone), keep your head up and not in your phone, try to avoid very crowded areas, don’t have your phone hanging half out of your back pocket and keep wallets in your front pocket,” Madison said.


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Pulling from purses

The LAPD’s classification of pickpocketing totals include “pickpurse” and purse-snatching incidents. They also encompass “drunk roll” reports, which involves stealing from an unconscious or intoxicated person. 


The situation is worsening. The first five months of 2023 brought 504 pickpocket reports, 27% more than the same period last year. 


Horizontal bar chart of pickpocketing reports in the first 5 months of 3 years.


According to police data, 40% of the pickpocketing reports in the first five months of this year occurred in bars and nightclubs, where thieves take advantage of dim lighting and crowds. The most frequent time for these kinds of thefts were between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.


From Jan. 1, 2022–May 31, 2023, pickpockets in the city have been most active in Downtown, a high-density neighborhood with numerous bars and clubs. The second most victimized community in that 17-month period is Hollywood.


Table of neighborhoods with most pickpocketing reports


The city of West Hollywood has also seen an increase in pickpocketing. News reports last summer detailed a rise in incidents. In February, thieves targeted the nightclub Rocco’s, stealing cell phones. Two suspects were taken into custody by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and several phones were returned.


The same thing is playing out in other cities. In February, the New York Police Department warned of a group of pickpockets going on a spree in two popular Brooklyn nightclubs. The thieves similarly targeted cell phones, along with wallets and credit cards. 


How we did it: We examined publicly available crime data from the Los Angeles Police Department from Jan. 1, 2018–May 31, 2023. Learn more about our data here.


LAPD data only reflects crimes that are reported to the department, not how many crimes actually occurred. In making our calculations, we rely on the data the LAPD makes publicly available. LAPD may update past crime reports with new information, or recategorize past reports. Those revised reports do not always automatically become part of the public database.


Have questions about our data or want to know more? Write to us at askus@xtown.la.