"Hey Joe!" someone invariably shouts from the street at Officer Joseph Young, the district's community-relations officer.
Instantly, the tension lifts, the mood lightens and an exchange between police officer and citizen looks more like a conversation between old friends.
Young, 59, who has worked in Southwest Philadelphia for nearly 25 years, is known as the go-to guy for nearly any issue - crime or otherwise - impacting the Southwest community.
He is the winner of the 26th annual Daily News George Fencl Award for outstanding service.
"Seriously, the community is blessed to have him," said community organizer Clifford Smith. "Not only is he an excellent officer, he's also an excellent human being when it comes to the needs of the people."
On a recent Monday morning, Smith came to speak with Young to have him quash a rumor stating that officers with whom his neighbors have good relationships were to be reassigned.
Minutes earlier, Young, sitting at his cluttered desk with his back to Officer Lisa McDowell, his partner for nearly a decade, left a message with the aunt of a shooting victim to update her on her nephew's condition. Gospel music played quietly from a seemingly ancient Panasonic boom box.
By about 11 a.m., Young and McDowell hit the streets to respond to complaints, meet with community leaders and follow up on a few city code violations with a digital camera and ticket book.
"He has a heart for these people," McDowell said during their early afternoon patrol, adding that Young's no-nonsense personality is balanced by his respect for the people he serves.
"I've learned a lot from him," McDowell said. "He's good people."
Young is a generally soft spoken man whose hair is beginning to turn gray in patches. He was born in North Philadelphia, but has lived in West Philadelphia since he was 9 years old.
He now lives in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood with his wife of 38 years, Jeanette. He has two adult sons.
Young was a street cop until 1997, when he moved to community relations. That has given him a chance to meet with neighbors striving to better their communities, instead of regularly dealing with criminals.
This is the third consecutive year that an officer from the 12th district has been given the Fencl Award, a sign of the strong relationship between the community and the district's officers, said Cpt. Kevin Hodges.
"Joe Young - and the other individuals who have won the Fencl Award - proves that the 12th District has gone above and beyond when it comes to having effective and efficient contact with the public," said Hodges, Young's supervising officer.
"He knows all the players, he knows who to go to when there's a problem."
And neighbors in Southwest Philly know that they can call Young for nearly anything.
Young works with a multitude of neighborhood groups, meets regularly with block captains and organizes activities to keep neighborhood youth off the streets and out of trouble.
In the letters nominating Young for the award, supporters noted how he arranges drives for families in need - for coats, school supplies, holiday meals - and has coordinated events for people to turn in weapons.
"It becomes a little more than police officer and citizen," Young said. "It becomes more personal."
Those who work regularly with Young say that his responsiveness and empathy have gone a long way towards shaping the community's perception of the police department.
"I call him on his personal cellphone - even on off days," said Voffee Jabateh, executive director and CEO of the African Culture Alliance of North America, based on Chester Avenue near 56th Street.
Some neighbors look at Young as a father figure, while others consider him a son. Overall, those who know Young praise him for being a down-to-earth, kind and approachable officer.
"Most of all, he don't talk at you, he talks with you - he helps you as much as possible," Sharon Thompson, a nurse at Longstreth Elementary, said when Young visited during one of the school's spirit days.
While faculty kept the students entertained, Thompson smiled and handed Young a plate with a smoked sausage on a bun from the school's cookout.
"He does all he can to give us the support we need," she said. "You can't ask for a better man."