Denver police expand LGBT Safe Place program

DENVER -- The Denver Police Department’s Safe Place program is off to a great start, according to officials.

Since the program launched a week ago, more than two dozen businesses have agreed to offer safe haven to victims of hate crime.

Lt. Michael Wyatt has been busy canvassing neighborhoods and meeting business owners to promote the initiative.

His mission is to help stamp out hate crime, specifically against members of Denver’s LGBT community.

Jack Rabbit Slims, a neighborhood bar just north of City Park, is the latest business partnering with the Safe Place program.

“It’s all about comradery,” bar manager Matthew Freeman-Kimmel said. “We can’t succeed without everybody.”

Participating businesses are identified with specific rainbow stickers that let the public know it's an appropriate place to shelter from harassment, intimidation and assault.

The program launched in Seattle two years ago as police were noticing a rise in hate crime and learning of many crimes that were going unreported.

The effort in Seattle has since expanded to 60 cities across the country.

Safe Place locations agree to call police while sheltering a victim. Officers hope this will result in more people coming forward -- lowering instances of unreported crimes.

Wyatt is spearheading the program in Denver. He is openly gay and serves as the department’s LGBT community liaison.

Recently, Wyatt said he became aware of an increase of unreported hate crimes targeting gay teens. That’s when he decided to take the advice of the FOX31 Problem Solvers to adopt a safe place program.

“I learned about the program, and I thought that’s really cool,” said Kiva Hargrave, a Denver woman who identifies as bisexual. “We need to come together as a community.”

Businesses do not pay for the partnership. The effort is low cost for police, according to Wyatt. The Denver Police Foundation pays to produce the stickers placed on business windows.