SEATTLE -- A program in Seattle designed to help protect the LGBTQ community is getting interest from other major cities across the country.
Safe Place was launched in May 2015 and allows businesses and schools to post signs in their windows, indicating they are a “safe place” for victims of anti-LGBTQ crimes and harassment to seek help.
Officer Jim Ritter, the Seattle Police Department’s LGBTQ liaison officer and head of Safe Place, is in San Francisco this week to teach that city more about the program.
His visit came as a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring dozens of others.
"After hearing the news of these shootings in Orlando, I had to remind myself that the person who committed these murders did more than just take lives of innocent victims,” Officer Ritter said. “He kind of single-handedly brought to life the fact that these hate crimes against the LGBT community that they face daily are very real and a problem that needs to be addressed.”’
Ritter, who is gay, said the shooting has sparked a worldwide conversation about LGBTQ rights and the challenges the community still faces. He hopes the tragedy will be a reminder to anyone who is the victim of a hate crime that they should not be afraid to report it.
Since the Safe Place program launched in Seattle, around 1,600 businesses and schools have signed on, Ritter said. In addition to San Francisco, he said cities like Tucson, Ariz., and Philadelphia have also expressed interest in launching similar initiatives.