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Seattle’s ‘Safe Place’ helps victims of hate crimes, discrimination

The Safe Place program started in Seattle and now more than 6,000 businesses and organizations are taking part.

Seattle Police Department’s Safe Place program is having international success.

Developed in 2014 and launched in 2015, the Safe Place initiative is now in about 200 police departments between the United States, Canada, and Europe. The program allows businesses and community organizations to place a decal in their window that identifies them as a Safe Place.

The decals alert victims of hate crimes and discrimination that that business or organization is a safe place for them to report their crime as they wait for police.

“We weren’t really sure what was going to happen when we launched this back in 2015 but the response was enormous from the business community and the LGBT community and from the victims who had confidence that the Seattle Police Department cared about them and that we were doing this for all the right reasons,” Seattle Police Officer and Safe Place founder Jim Ritter said. “We’re thrilled that it has progressed the way it has, and it continues to progress to this day.”

Aaron Amundsen lives in North Seattle and in 2016 he was a victim of a hate crime. Toward the end of the year, someone left a threatening, discriminatory anti-LGBT note on his car.

“I freaked out. At first, I thought it was a joke, but then I thought about it, and it wasn’t a joke. I didn’t know where it came from,” said Amundsen.

At the time Aaron didn’t know about the Safe Place program, but since then his business now proudly displays the decal so that if his issue happened to anyone else, they would know his business is a place they can stay while they wait for police response.

“The beauty of the program is it’s very simple in the most basic sense. It doesn’t cost business owners anything. Very easy to train your staff. Very easy to offer assistance to people who are being harassed or threatened with violence,” Amundsen said. “It has made my neighborhood a lot safer. Very few incidents at all, but people who are in the neighborhood and see the signs, it just reminds them to do something if they see a problem.”

If you or your organization is interested in becoming a Safe Place, you can find more details by clicking here.