Program seeks to combat hate crimes by connecting victims with business advocates

MORRISTOWN -- The Morristown Bureau of Police will commemorate the launch of the new ‘Morristown Safe Place’ program on Thursday, April 20 at 11 a.m. The event will be held at Starbucks, located at 40 Park Place in the heart of Morristown.  The program follows a similar model developed by the Seattle Police Department, which aims to reduce hate crimes involving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) individuals by fostering an active collaboration between local businesses, schools, social organizations and local police.

The “Safe Place” program was first developed by Officer Jim Ritter of the Seattle Police Department, who will also be in attendance to speak at the event.  Ritter played a significant role in the development and launch of the initiative in Seattle, which has received nation-wide attention and accolades since its launch in 2015.   

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"In this day of communications, everybody just assumes someone else is calling police and we can't afford to have that happen anymore, neither can these victims," Ritter said.

Employees of participating businesses will be trained to recognize and accommodate individuals in distress and in need of help by providing a safe location in the place of business while 911 is called for an immediate police response.  While Starbucks is the first Morristown business to launch the program, additional businesses have already expressed an interest in participating.

Participating establishments will display “MPD Safe Place” decals in their entrances as an identifiable symbol of safety. The Morristown Bureau of Police will assist in educating employees on victim assistance and the program’s details. Chief Peter Demnitz added, “I am happy that Morristown Medical Center brought the Safe Place Program to the attention of the Morristown Police as well as SPD Officer Ritter’s efforts to assist us in launching the program here.”  He continued, “Any opportunity to connect with and assist Morristown’s diverse community is a positive for the police agency and the people served.”

Several major cities have already adopted the program, including Louisville, Tucson, and Orlando, and Morristown is excited to be added to that list.  By actively engaging the community in combating hate crimes, Mayor Tim Dougherty and the Bureau of Police hope to promote an inclusive and open environment for all residents to feel comfortable and safe.  Mayor Dougherty will also be present at the April 20 event to speak about the future of the “Safe Place” program.

“It is important for all residents and visitors of Morristown to feel welcomed when in our community,” Mayor Dougherty stated, “This program is suitable for all types of businesses, no matter how large or small and we all must make an effort to decrease incidences of hate crimes and improve levels of reporting these incidents. I’m excited for this initiative to begin in Morristown.”

For more information about ‘MPD Safe Place’ program, please contact Sgt. Brian LaBarre at 973-292-6692.