My name is Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph. I am the lead officer in charge of the Skid Row area. My job is to act as a liaison between the Los Angeles Police Department and the homeless community. I also come up with creative ideas designed to reduce crime and the fear of crime in the area.
In my opinion, a police officers primary duty is to ensure the public safety of each citizen we serve. The way I police is not based on anyone’s race or social status. It is based solely on crime trends in the area. Recent Media reports imply that we are targeting Skid Row because the people there are homeless. Being homeless is not a crime, but we cannot turn a blind eye to the criminal element that has deeply embedded itself within this community. To say we are targeting the homeless is blatantly false. The accusations really disturb me because our critics know the truth, but continue to prevent us from properly serving the homeless community.
In a recent report one of our opponents stated that the only thing stopping us from stopping crime is “us”. This is a person who went on a ride along with me and was awestruck by what we have to deal with when it comes to protecting the homeless.
I believe there are several “real reasons” why we can’t stop all the crime on Skid Row.
First, the supporting agencies which are supposed to assist us with public safety (The Sheriffs Department, County Probation, Eastlake, The DA’s Office, Judges) refuse to do so out of fear of a pen lashing by the local paper, or the wrath of the ACLU and agenda based groups. These entities release dangerous criminals early or refuse to cooperate on a consistent basis with our Division. It is sad that fear supercedes the public safety of the citizens we serve.
Our patrol force is understaffed and overburdened. The primary car designated for Skid Row can barely be in the area. When you have under two hundred forty officers responsible for policing 8 to 10,000 people it is impossible to help everyone or make a lasting impact.
There are groups who do not care if their causes are right or wrong, as long as they win or “Stick it” to the police department. These groups, who claim to be advocates for the homeless, watch as gang members brutalize, exploit and sell poison to them, and then call us as monsters for trying to curb the problem. They would rather label me an “Uncle Tom” than take on drug dealers for poisoning the community. An example of this is the recent 9th Circuit ruling against the Department, regarding sleeping on the sidewalks.
When I began enforcing the sidewalk ordinance in my area it had less to do with sitting or sleeping on the sidewalk. In reality it had to do with the crime it produced. In Skid Row most people are not sleeping or sitting for “life sustaining” reasons. During the day, many are sitting so they can use narcotics. When they are sleeping, it is more likely due to crashing from a four-day cocaine binge or a bad heroin overdose. While they sit, the drug dealers we can’t keep in jail, see the sidewalks as prime real estate for their trade. The homeless become victims as well as suspects. There are excellent programs on Skid Row to help the homeless beat their addictions. But when drug dealers are waiting right outside of the doors, it’s difficult for the homeless to succeed. Unfortunately political agendas won out over common sense, and now the homeless are becoming victimized in my area at an even higher rate.
I know that writing this will not convince many of our critics, but I urge anyone to come to Skid Row for a ride along and see for yourself what really goes on. Then if you want to criticize us, you will have an educated opinion. I can live with that.
Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph
LAPD Central Division
Contact No. (213) 972-1891