FORT LAUDERDALE - In a partnership with local businesses, the Wilton Manors police department is implementing a new "Safe Place" program.
It was created to provide safe places for residents and visitors who have been victims of hate, bias, and harassment to report crimes if they don't feel comfortable coming forward to the police department.
"I have been chased from bars to my car, I have been beat up, I've been raped," explained social worker Misty Alicea. She knows firsthand the sting of hate crimes and harassment. She explains for some in the LGBTQ+ community, going to the police station to file a report is not easy. "It's very much easier said than done especially when you feel like you're a part of the community that police doesn't approve of, not saying saying that's always the case," she said.
Wilton Manors police are well aware of that sentiment and are trying to make it easier with the creation of the "Safe Place Program."
"If they have concerns or issues or questions about how to report a crime, they have places to go in order to report that crime and feel comfortable, safe," said Assistant Chief Darren Brodsky from the Wilton Manors Police Dept.
"We understand that reporting a crime to authorities can be nerve-wracking. This program aims to make the process a little easier and help strengthen our commitment to making sure Life's Just Better and Safer Here," said Wilton Manors police Chief Gary Blocker in a statement.
Look for stickers on more than 2 dozen businesses in Wilton manors, letting victims of hate crimes, discrimination and harassment know there's a place for them to go if they're uncomfortable going to the police department. The Pride Factory on Wilton Drive has a sticker on its front door.
"We have the stickers on the door that lets them know we are a safe place and they can take refuge here if they need to," said Pride Factory manager Michael Trottier
Sunserve CEO Tony Lima is head of one of South Florida's most well-known social service agencies. He hopes the "Safe Place" program will make crime victims more comfortable coming forward.
"We can help to be that bridge. We can call the police for them. The police come in, have a conversation and we're there basically holding their hands," he said.
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