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Listen in: Osceola County Sheriff's Office launches SAFE PLACE program for victims of anti-LGBTQ crimes

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The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office has launched a SAFE PLACE program aimed at making it easier for victims of LGBTQ hate crimes to get immediate help within the community.

A sister program was rolled out in Orlando in 2016.

Read the full story below.

Osceola County businesses that enroll in the SAFE PLACE program promise to be a safe haven for LGBTQ people who are being harassed or victimized. 

Owners and employees receive special training to respond to victims of hate crimes and rainbow heart stickers with the words “safe place” to put in their storefront window.

Detective Ruth Marrero an LGBTQ liaison with the program, says these stickers are meant to be easily, and quickly spotted in an emergency.

"So, if you are a victim of a crime and you're in the LGBTQ community and something happens to you, that you can walk in there and know that you're not going to be ridiculed, you're not going to be laughed at, and that they will stand by with you while you call law enforcement."

Migdalia Perez, an attorney with Perez LaSure Law in Kissimmee and a member of the LGBTQ community, has already signed her practice up and is scouting out locations for her sticker. 

"We own our building, across the street. Well, catty corner from the Osceola County Sheriff...Courthouse and we have two main windows, but we’re prepared to put it wherever they think it is viewable and visible. So my understanding is that they are willing to come out and do training for the members or employees of our business. We have three employees."

Deputy Ethan Fournier who helped launch the SAFE PLACE program under Sheriff Marco Lopez says he hopes it can make the community a more welcoming and safer place for residents and visitors.

"People in the LGBTQ community, you know are afraid to report crimes or, or they’re more likely to be victims of crime. So we just wanted to be able to have a program where businesses can show their support, and that we can show our support for that community."

LGBT + Center Director George Wallace says the program has already worked well in Orlando where it was rolled out in 2016.

"So when you are a victim of a hate crime, and statistics show that 21% of all LGBTQ people have experienced a hate crime. You see the sticker and you know that it's a safe space and you can go inside that business, whether it's gay owned or not, and you are protected."

Stickers are available in both Spanish and in English. To sign up, click here.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.