My name is Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph. I am the lead officer for the Skid Row area. There have been many questions raised in regards to the effectiveness of the Safer Cities Initiative (SCI). Several of our opponents touted boastfully it was a waste of resources, and predicted unavoidable failure even prior to its initiation. These are groups whom somehow benefit by keeping things the way they were.
In spite of their opinions, we have pressed forward, and the difference in the Skid Row area is glaringly apparent. As I patrolled my area during the last two weeks, it has been a pleasure to see streets, where service providers work hard to help the homeless, such as San Julian and San Pedro Streets, become environments that are conducive to positive change. The change is apparent at these facilities, not just on the exterior but the interior as well.
For the first time in years, I observed a woman walking with her three small children down streets that were once tent-covered brothels of criminal behavior and filth. Single Room Occupancy (SRO) residents and street dwellers alike express their appreciation for the change. These conversations are now a common theme as I interact with individuals in my designated area.
Also the radio is unusually quiet, as opposed to the repeated calls of narcotics dealing, overdoses and assaults that were routine over our frequency. Most of the individuals that are unhappy with these changes are the drug dealers, and the addicts who used to rule the streets with a renewed vigor after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court ruling, regarding the Los Angeles Municipal Code
Though the job is far from being complete we continue to work on strong partnerships with the District Attorney's Office, the Superior Court Judges, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and Los Angeles County Probation Department. With their support we can send a strong message that narcotics dealers, and violent criminals will not be tolerated in an area that is designed to provide shelter and resources to assist people beat their addictions, and overcome homelessness.
Our detractors state that we are failing to deal with the root of the homeless problem. In my opinion the root of the problem nationwide is poor education and lack of jobs. However, in the area of Skid Row, the problem can be easily diagnosed when you walk down some streets and see rows of addicts smoking rock cocaine and injecting heroin. Narcotics are the reason for the continuum of the downward spiral of many Skid Row residents.
As we continue our efforts some of the individuals whom came here for "the party," as my Captain so aptly expressed, are now leaving the area to their real residences or hotel rooms. I believe that in time, as we make the area unattractive to the criminal elements that have thrived here for years; it will help the missions in their efforts. For instance, rather than drug dealers using the missions as crash pads while they poison the community during the day, the truly needy individuals will have a safe facility to receive guidance and assistance.
As the face of this area begins changing, block by block, I believe it is a prime opportunity for the residents, the homeless, and business communities to finally take a stand and take back their streets. That is another element of this effort that has been missing in the past. I strongly believe that citizens will be more inclined to report crime, as it becomes safer to do so.
So when I am asked what is LAPD Central Area's role in helping the Skid Row community, the answer to me is clear. Our role is: To maintain order, enhance safety and create an environment that is conducive to the positive change in the lives of the homeless, residents of the SROs, service providers, and the business community in Skid Row.
Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph
Los Angeles Police Department, Central Area