‘Angel’ of Skid Row made one of America’s worst areas ‘safer and cleaner’

An officer who has spent 17 years patrolling one of America’s worst areas has found a way to keep the peace that focuses less on arrests, and more on helping those who have fallen on the most difficult of times.

Deon Joseph, or the Sheriff of Skidberry as he is known to many in the area, works on Skid Row, the Los Angeles neighborhood known for its overwhelmingly high homeless population, with some 2,000 people sleeping on the streets every night, and where drugs are drug addicts are all around.

He is less concerned with arrests however than with keeping the order by helping those in the community, preferring to do his rounds on foot and not in his squad car as he checks on the homeless and drug addicts, referring to them all as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ to show them the respect they do not get anywhere else, and passes out hygiene kits to make sure they are staying clean.

Joseph has also never once fired his gun – and the LAPD says crime is dropping and the streets are safer and cleaner than they were just two years ago.

Joseph also shares stories of addicts he has seen drop hundreds of pounds as they succumb to drugs, the constant unsanitary conditions that give Skid row the smell of ‘urine, feces and burning crack and weed,’ and how, despite all of this, the people who live here are his people.

It’s not just the hygiene kits that separate him from other officers around the country, but the self-defense class he teaches for women in the area called ‘Ladies Night,’ and the flyers he hands out letting people know how they can apply for housing and his belief that he would rather make sure an addict is alive and safe rather than arrest them.

He also hands out his cell phone and email info for anyone who wants to contact him at any time – and doesn’t mind when residents refer to him as Deon and not Officer Joseph.

‘I feel respect when they call me by my first name, and I show them respect by calling them sir or ma’am.’

The only thing he can’t provide is the one thing he believes Skid Row needs more than anything to turn things around – affordable housing.

‘Skid Row is a toxic petri dish that thwarts any form of recovery,’ says Joseph.

‘We have beer barons selling singles for $2, right outside AA meetings.’

This may be the time that things do finally turn around for the area however, which will hopefully benefit from the $2billion earmarked for subsidized housing in next year’s $1.1trillion federal spending bill.

As for Joseph, his path to the job seems to be the direct result of a life changing mistake his father almost made as a younger man.

Angered over the murder of his father, Joseph’s grandfather, by a 16-year-old white boy in Louisiana, his rage almost put him on the path to a life of crime – until he tried to mug a preacher at gunpoint.

‘Put that gun down, boy,’ the man said.

‘You’re not going to jail today, but I want to see you in church.’

He did go to church, and would later pay that opportunity for a second chance forward, started a construction company that made a point of employing ex-convicts.

Joseph’s mother meanwhile spent her time feeding the homeless, while also raising the 41 foster children the family took in.

And now, Joseph is continuing the family tradition of helping others, no matter what their circumstance.

‘This is what I have to do, he explains.

‘I can go anywhere in this department. There are 17 divisions. I can go back to Venice, sip on lattes, chase celebrities in Hollywood. I can go anywhere. I can leave at any time. I choose to be here. I want to help these people. It’s in my heart to help these people.’

Source: The DailyMail

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