The San Diego Police Department, local leaders and advocates introduced on Wednesday a new program that identifies local businesses as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and a refuge to call for help in case of any harassment or hate crimes.
The new Safe Place Program will give stickers to participating businesses to display on their front windows or in any highly visible area so residents can know those locations are safe spaces for victims of a hate crime. Authorities said the stickers will have a QR code that can help victims and allies.
“The stickers, you can see, contain a QR code and when scanned, will take you to the Safe Place website where you can find information on what is and what is not a hate crime, how to report a crime or suspicious activity, and resources for persons often targeted by acts of hate," explained SDPD Chief David Nisleit.
Nicole Murray-Ramirez, a longtime activist who is among the pioneers who fought for LGBT rights and a Pride celebration in San Diego 40 years ago, called Wednesday an "important day for us in the LGBT community in San Diego and our relationship with the San Diego Police Department.”
“This sign means that any San Diegan facing a hate crime or harassment can come into our LGBT bars and businesses and we will help and protect you from hate and violence because for us in the LGBT community, a hate crime against one of us is indeed a hate crime against all of us," Murray-Ramirez said.
With businesses openly displaying solidarity and acting as safe spaces, San Diego City Council President Pro-Tem, Stephen Whitburn, said he hopes victims of hate crimes and harassment will feel more confident reporting any hateful acts they experience.
“We know that the underreporting of hate crimes is a serious issue and I am hopeful that with these spaces, more victims will feel safe reporting these crimes so that we can hold accountable those who commit these crimes of hate," he said.
Businesses in Hillcrest, North Park and surrounding neighborhoods will participate in the rollout, SDPD said. The department has plans to extend the program to businesses that serve the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, as well.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria called the program a step in the right direction.
“Working together, we can create the San Diego that we deserve – one that is inclusive, that is tolerant and that makes clear that there’s no room for hate or violence in this city," Gloria said.