Durham police take action against hate crimes, announce new 'Safe Place' initiative

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The familiar Starbucks logo shares window space with a smaller sign at several stores in Durham.

The rainbow illustration and the words "Safe Place" are designed to assist LGBTQ visitors and others fleeing harassment.

Durham police officers placed the first sticker on a window where customers enter the Starbucks on Guess Road Wednesday morning. They stood with Chief Cerelyn Davis and Charles Strickland, the police department's LGBTQ liaison officer, during a press briefing about the new program.

"Durham has had hate crimes committed, but we don't know for sure how many have been committed because many crimes go unreported," said Davis, adding that Safe Place is designed to help officers track those crimes.

"If anybody, any Durham resident or visitor is a victim a hate or bias crime or is made to feel uncomfortable," said Officer Strickland, "Any place displaying these decals is a safe place to wait."

Strickland knows how it feels to face bigotry and hatred because of a person's race and preference.

"If you went to a certain part of town, like clubs, for instance, a long time ago, was considered a gay area, and you were subject to be harassed if you were in those areas," he said.

He approached Starbucks as a potential partner, and the coffee chain's district manager agreed to host Safe Place in eight Durham stores.

"When Officer Strickland reached out to me about implementing this initiative within Starbucks, it was a natural extension of what we already believe in as a company," said Richard Huggins.

Six more businesses in Durham, including Toast, the Parlour, and the Unscripted Hotel, are now Safe Place locations. Workers will call the police and provide shelter for victims until officers arrive.

Chief Davis told reporters the participating businesses will also help LGBTQ teens who don't feel safe.

"Bullying is quite prevalent in our schools, especially for young people who have identified themselves as other," she said.
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