HOMETOWN HERO: Community police officer feeds Philadelphia neighborhood

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Thursday, September 24, 2020
Community police officer feeds Philadelphia neighborhood
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Philadelphia police officer Joseph Lukaitis is the living spirit of the phrase "to protest and serve."

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Officer Joseph Lukaitis is the living spirit of the phrase "to protect and serve." Lukaitis is about to retire from the Philadelphia Police Department,but he's spent his career nourishing much more than just the soul of the community.

It's hard to keep up with Officer Lukaitis walking around in Philadelphia's Tioga-Nicetown section. Every house we pass, he can tell you who lives there.

"That's right that's Lukaitis, know him by sight," said Gloria Brown, who lives in the neighborhood of the 39th police district.

"When I see people coming out, they all know me. 'Hey Officer Lukaitis, hey Officer Lukaitis, how you doing?' You know?" said Lukaitis, who's the community relations officer there.

He says getting to know the neighbors has been one of the biggest goals of his career.

"He helps the community and he's in everything most of the time," said Juanita Williams, a neighbor.

"He's been taking care of the community for a while, feeding everybody," said Brown.

On a typical Wednesday, he gets donations in from Snap Kitchen and Philly Food Rescue and feeds the neighborhood lunch.

Once those tables cleared, a diaper drive he set up started. Monday, he DJ'd a social distant block party outside of the station. Next Saturday, he's organizing a peace walk.

He says little community events like this have become even more crucial during COVID-19, where many people are struggling.

"I never thought in my lifetime you'd see a time where you walk in the supermarket and you went down an aisle and stuff is missing," he said.

After 25 years on the job, Officer Lukaitis is retiring in December. He says he's ready to hang up his uniform, but he's not quite ready to leave this community.

"See the difference is now I'm badge #2081. When I come back, I'll just be Joe, but I'm still coming back. I'm going to help the community the best I can. You can't just walk away from something you love," he said.