Starbucks Sets Up "Safe Spaces" For LGBTQ Individuals In Seattle

Photo: Elaine Thompson/ AP Photo.
Every Starbucks in Seattle is about to provide much more than just lattes and toasted muffins. Last week, the coffee chain announced a partnership with the Seattle Police Department’s Safe Place Program to provide a haven for LGBTQ victims of harassment and hate crimes in each of its locations throughout the city. Starbucks released a statement about the program in advance of the final round of training for its employees, which ended yesterday.

“We want to make sure the employees stay safe and people in the businesses stay safe,” Officer Jim Ritter of the Seattle Police Department said in a statement released by Starbucks. “I think the way this was designed, that’s certainly happening. Remember, these suspects don’t want to be seen. They don’t want to be following victims into a room full of people who can identify them.”

The Safe Places Program is spearheaded by Ritter, the LGBTQ liaison for the Seattle PD. Participating businesses and locations identify themselves by a window cling with the program's logo: a police badge colored with a rainbow motif.

Ritter started the partnership after noticing discrepancies between reported hate crimes and what he was hearing anecdotally. Ritter, who is openly gay, knew of unreported incidents and also knew that artificially low hate-crime rates prevent the police force from devoting resources to the issue.

In just a few months, the program has led to a rise in reported hate crimes, something Ritter identifies as positive. “The victims of these crimes are feeling more comfortable reporting them,” he said in the statement to Starbucks.

This isn't the first time Starbucks has tried to help communities while making profits. The average reported wage for a Starbucks employee is significantly above the federal minimum wage of $7.25, and the company offered health insurance for its employees even before the Affordable Care Act required it. The company also offers benefits that include tuition reimbursement under certain conditions, and CEO Howard Schultz has come out in favor of increasing the minimum wage.

Starbucks has enrolled all 97 of its Seattle locations and trained its more than 2,000 Seattle employees in the program. Workers have been trained by the SPD on how to report hate crimes and harassment to police while keeping themselves and the victim safe. The Safe Places program has partnered with 650 businesses and organizations, and Ritter has said he hopes to get the number up to an even thousand by the end of the year.
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