Starbucks announced Wednesday its intention to pledge support to the Seattle Police Department's Safe Place program by branding its 97 Seattle locations as safe havens for LGBT victims of hate crimes.
The Seattle Times reports the coffee chain has been working since June to train 2,000 area employees in how to handle and secure LGBT victims of violence, and how to better report hate crimes to the police.
The paper spoke with Seattle police officer Jim Ritter, an openly gay 33-year department veteran who was appointed liasion officer to the LGBT community in March.
According to Ritter, he hasn't been turned down once when asking local businesses to join an alliance in implementing the Safe Place program. Since launching the program in May, 650 businesses across the city have joined by placing a sticker — a rainbow-colored police badge — in their storefronts.
"Starbucks has more locations than any other business in Seattle, and its name brand is recognized all over the world," he said, adding that he hopes the coffee giant's involvement encourages other corporations to follow suit.
“I haven’t been turned down by a single business. It is heartening and reinforces that people in Seattle get it and don’t support hate of any kind." He hopes the program teaches businesses that "it's OK to call 911," adding, "We want you to become involved, we want you to help us help the community."
Ritter said that with the help of Starbucks and local businesses owners, would-be LGBT assailants may think twice before committing hate crimes.
“They’re cowards for the most part … They’re opportunistic, they do their damage and leave,” he said. “They like operating in the shadows and Safe Place eliminates a lot of those shadows.”
According to Heather Jennings, Starbucks' regional director for the Seattle metro area, joining the Safe Place program was a no-brainer. “We’re already a part of our customers’ lives and … this is another way to be part of the community,” she said. “Anyone who needs a place to go to feel safe, to call the police, we want to be there for them."