Los Angeles is a city that offers fascinating opportunities for criminals and cops alike. Structural elements and planning decisions in urban areas can unintentionally help or hinder criminal activity. Here’s some of the unique features of L.A. that have attracted streetwise criminals over the years.

Subdivisions, it turns out, are pretty attractive to burglars. With such similar designs, an intruder can enter a house for the first time already having a pretty good sense of the floor plan. Without having to worry about quirky layouts, professional criminals can get in and out of a house much more quickly.

On the other side of the spectrum are neighbourhoods like the Hollywood Hills, which are much more architecturally disparate and feature confusing webs of winding roads. Such geography can be disorienting for criminals, but it’s also confusing for law enforcement. Lots of narrow roads and dead-ends can create problems for burglars and police equally, making familiarity with the area key.

One of LA’s most obvious geographic features that figures prominently in criminal activity is its freeway system. During a wave of robberies in the ’90s, bank robbers exploited the locations of on and off ramps with great success. If you were a criminal, you would literally pull off the freeway, rob the bank, get back on the freeway, and the next thing you know, you’re in Burbank. Heists of this type were common enough to warrant a clever nickname: “stop-and-rob.”

The LAPD’s Air Support Division’s Officers flying in their helicopters must be keenly aware of the city’s geography in order to provide useful support to ground units hundreds of feet below. Still, savvy criminals have figured out ways to elude even these watchful eyes in the sky. The simplest and most effective method? Venture out of the flightpath. The ability of the helicopters to navigate and retain visibility in areas with lots of tall buildings is limited, making Downtown a prime destination for getaway cars. Meanwhile, the number of planes landing at LAX makes it unsafe for helicopters to fly in the vicinity of the runways, so Westchester is another good place to make an escape. A few crims have got really creative, covering themselves with mud to evade LAPD’s heat-seeking cameras, like Arnold Schwarzenegger did to hide from the Predator.

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