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DTLA 'Purple Patrol' Officer Explains Why They Hover Around The Homeless

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Have you ever walked around downtown L.A. and wondered who those guys patrolling the sidewalks in the purple shirts are and what exactly they do?

The Safe & Clean team, or "Purple Patrol" or "Purple Shirts" as they are also known, is hired by the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID) and "is committed to assisting those who work, live, and play" in downtown Los Angeles. As nice as that sounds, critics say the Purple Shirts exist just to make sure hipsters feel safe to go downtown and sip on $14 cocktails at a bar just a few blocks away from Skid Row.

Sometimes they're seen essentially hovering around a homeless individual. StreetWiseLA caught a Purple Shirt in Pershing Square who was standing about 20 feet away from a homeless man who seemed like he might be in distress and asked why they seem to do that a lot. The Purple Shirt was nice enough to explain, on video:

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A lot of the homeless people are drug addicts... or drink a lot. For the most part, what we do is what we call "wellness checks." We go up to them, ask them if they're OK, [and] see if there's any problems with them. A lot of the times it's usually in the morning when they're asleep—[we] wake them up. There is a municipal code that allows them to sleep between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. After 6 a.m., since it's business hours, we wake them up.

As a secondary issue, we check on their well-being. We make sure they didn't die during the night, because it gets cold, [and make sure] they didn't overdose, they didn't drink too much alcohol. There have been instances where we've come up on dead bodies—or they're too drunk to wake up.

Although the homeless man in the video seemed to be in need of assistance, there wasn't much the Purple Shirt could do. He got no response from the man and, "He wasn't doing anything illegal," he explains.

And while the DCBID site says the Purple Patrol serves as "additional eyes and ears" for the LAPD, the Purple Shirt says they sometimes give gentle reminders. "If we do find some of them drinking, we let them know they can't be drinking in public," he says. "They'll either drink all of it or throw the bottle [away]."

"It's nice to hear that you are looking out for their well being," says StreetWiseLA's vlogger. "A lot of times we just see you guys harassing people—I'm not gonna say to you because I didn't see you do anything like that."