Hello again. I am Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph. I am the liaison between the LAPD, Central and the Skid Row area it serves. The Safer Cities Initiative is moving forward. And we have learned a lot since the Initiative began. This knowledge has assisted us in our efforts to eliminate crime in this neglected area.
As I have stated numerous times, the people that live, work and frequent this area deserve the same protection and quality of life as anywhere else in this great City. Whether they live in a Single Residence Occupancy, work in the Missions, or dwell in the street, it is our job to ensure that each member of this community is safe and observes the laws of our City.
Within this community, as in any other community, there are schools, parks, and playgrounds. The difference is the concentration of the criminal element that has historically poisoned the true potential of this area of the City. My desire is that our efforts continue to turn the tide on this disturbing trend. A long-standing stronghold of the criminal element in Skid Row is also one of the potential bright spots, San Julian Park. Located in the heart of the narcotics trade on 5th and San Julian Streets, the marijuana trades flourished directly under the radar of the police station. Until recently, officers were unable to tackle the problem due to lack of resources and support.
Since the park’s inception drug dealers saw this area as prime real estate due to the high volume of customers and lack of consequence for their actions. Additionally, during the last three years, I observed a disturbing trend in the area. There is an influx of women with small children who are residents in the surrounding shelters. As with any child, these youngsters would sometimes find themselves playing in this park, while drug dealers sold their product unfazed by their potential negative influence upon these children and the community as a whole.
Under blanket covered tables within this park, illegal contraband and money changed hands as men and women played cards and dominoes. At times, I received complaints from individuals who were “ordered” to leave the park by the dealers. This left them no other choice but to sit on the curb as the drug dealers talked street politics and strategized the ins and outs of their trade.
Frustrated, fellow officers and I we would make arrest after arrest within the park, only to see the same dealers released early. The arrests actually allowed them to strengthen their operations aided by the two or three new faces who replaced them during their absence. These factors, coupled with the strong aroma of marijuana smoke tauntingly reminding us of our futility. This was the last straw for me.
With Safer Cities Initiative in play, and the resources we so desperately needed at our disposal, it is now time to remove the grip that crime syndicates have had on this park for years, and give it back to the law abiding members of this community. This will be done through continuous presence, community outreach efforts, and the aggressive arrest and prosecution of narcotics “dealers.” Our efforts, if successful will not only be helpful to the park, but to drug programs, shelters, and community members. Residents have recently gained a new courage, as a result of the Safer Cities Initiative, to give crime information and freely express their wish for a safe drug free community.
Of course we will have our detractors. A confrontational stance is anticipated from activist groups and their lawyers who claim to be “for the homeless.” But as I have stated before, (LAPD Blog, September 21, 2006 and November 9, 2006) there are those who profit from keeping things the way they were. These groups are well aware of the ongoing problems in the park, and other drug torn areas within skid row. Yet, in their rants and rhetoric regarding police and the homeless, they fail to mention the gangs and illegal activity they bring because it does not benefit them to tell the whole truth about the driving forces which inhibits people in Skid Row from reaching their full potential. Indeed, we will press forward. They can try to hide behind and distort the First Amendment and the other Amendments to obscure the truth from the public, but we have video footage, extensive evidence and arrests giving just cause for this phase of the
Safer Cities Initiative.
This park belongs to the community, your community, and we will make our presence felt there until the quality of live improves in Skid Row. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
Senior Lead Officer Joseph