Hate Crime Prevention Programme, Officer Designates Businesses as Shelter For Victims

By Nethani Palmani | Feb 27, 2017 09:06 AM EST

A Seattle police officer who realized people aren't reporting hate crimes in his city, introduces a hate crime prevention programme called "Safe Place". It's the first initiative in the nation that assigns local businesses as a place where victims can shelter while waiting for the police to arrive.

Police Officer Jim Ritter designed a sticker of police shield with the LGBT rainbow symbolism. The sticker goes on the front of any business premise, permitting to call police if a victim of a hate crime comes inside looking for help.

The hate crime prevention programme is derived from Ritter's childhood experience. In those times, houses with stickers allowed kids walking to school to knock on the door and get help if something bad happened to them.

Ritter admitted to being gay and said he was unaware of the unreported anti-LGBT crime going on in his own city, despite working there for nearly four decades. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that hate crime groups are on the rise, and crimes against the LGBT community have rose since last year.

Two felony assault cases were reported from inside a Safe Place business in Seattle within the program's first week. In one of those safe place locations, the witnesses were found holding a suspect down when police arrived.

Ritter mentioned that the police observed an immediate increase in the reporting of hate crimes since the programme was introduced, adding that he is glad the programme is working as designed. "I think the Safe Place initiative has caused the conversation to start where they can verbally acknowledge that, and feel comfortable about talking about topics which they really haven't had the opportunity to talk about in the past," he said.

Aaron Amundsen is one of the hate crime victims targeted right after the election in November, according to CNN. He walked out of his tattoo parlour in Seattle and found a note of political and gay slurs on his car. Although Amundsen didn't report the incident right away, his business partner posted it to Facebook and gained a lot of attention, including Ritter's.

Addressing the victim's reluctance in reporting the hate crime, Ritter encouraged more people to file a police report, even if no one is ever caught. That is, in part, thanks to the awareness that Safe Place has brought to Seattle.

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