The Detective: A Collection of Car Crimes

October 27, 2021

Here are some recent anomalies in the Los Angeles Police Department’s data found by The Detective, our data crawling robot, and compiled by the robot’s human assistant, Taylor Mills. This period covers 4.-10. October 2021.

When it comes to street crime, the setup can seem innocent. Unfortunately, a 31-year-old woman in the Palms neighborhood found out. On October 5, an unidentified man approached the woman, who was sitting in her car, and asked about the time. As she looked and began to react, several people surrounded the vehicle. They continued to force her out of the car, then crawled in and drove away.

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

This month, Los Angeles recorded its highest weekly car theft in more than a year. From 3.-9. October, 521 vehicles disappeared in the city. This continues a recent increase. It also marks the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic; from 28 June to 4 July 2020, the LAPD registered 541 car theft reports.

On October 9 alone, 85 vehicles were stolen, with the most victims being Boyle Heights, in which seven cars were taken. Downtown, North Hollywood and Westlake each saw four vehicles disappear.

We say it one more time: Always lock your car, even if you just run into a store for a minute. On October 7, a 31-year-old woman returned to her vehicle in a Van Nuys parking lot after quickly shopping. A person whom police identified as an “intimate partner” jumped up from the back seat and grabbed her.

Only 64 times since 2010 have people hidden in a back seat while committing a crime. This is the fifth time that a potential violence case involved a person attacking from behind in a car.

Road rage does not stop automatically when the engine is off. According to police, a 35-year-old man parked his car in Pacoima on October 9th. Someone was waiting inside a building for the driver and aimed a gun at him.

The details are thin and it is not entirely clear how it relates to weather rage, but according to police it is the first time anyone has hidden in a building in relation to hostility behind the wheel. This is also only the second time someone waved a weapon during a property release. Last time was in a Sawtelle apartment complex in 2018.

Here’s how we did it: At Crosstown, we are investigating publicly available crime data from several law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County. We have a robot on the team called Detective that scans LAPD’s publicly available data for irregularities. LAPD officers mark most crime reports in their system with MO codes for “modus operandi”, Latin for method of operation or style. The MO codes are an abbreviation to describe what happened in a criminal incident.

Questions about our data? Write to us at

Crosstown is a non-profit local news organization based in Los Angeles. They use data to provide important insights to communities to help people make their neighborhoods safer, healthier and more connected. Sign up for their free weekly newsletter on to get neighborhood crime, air quality and traffic data delivered to your inbox.

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