Durham Starbucks first in Southeast to be LGBTQ ‘Safe Place’

Starbucks in Durham are a safe place for LGBTQ people to wait for police if they’ve been harassed or experienced a hate crime.

Durham Starbucks are the first locations in the Southeast to be “Safe Places” for LGBTQ people to wait for police. Workers at all eight free standing Starbucks will be trained how to to respond if someone comes in for help and will call the police if the person has not already.

Durham businesses, organizations and schools can show they are a LGBTQ “Safe Place” with new rainbow stickers and posters by their entrances. The Starbucks on Guess Road was the first to get a “Safe Place” decal by its front door Wednesday morning as police announced the new program to media.

The program is part the Durham Police Department’s community-oriented policing strategy under Chief C.J. Davis to reduce hate-related harassment and crime.

The department hired its first LGBTQ liaison officer, Charles Strickland, in 2016. Strickland is gay and African American. He said he has experienced discrimination because of his sexual orientation and race. He said every Durham resident and visitor deserves to feel respect.

Durham Police Chief Cerelyn Davis watches as DPD Officer Charles Strickland, the department’s LGBTQ liaison, affixs a “Safe Place” sticker to the front window of the Starbucks on Guess Road on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@newsobserver.com

Davis said that many hate crimes go unreported when people feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to report them. She said she was aware of a “Safe Place” program in Seattle and has been talking with Strickland about how to do it in Durham for the past two years.

Nationwide in 2016, 16.7 percent of hate-crime victims were targeted because of a sexual orientation bias, Durham police said, with 1.7 percent targeted because of gender identity bias.

The chief said “bullying is quite prevalent in our schools,” but that schools are not being asked directly to participate.

“We don’t want to push this on anyone,” she said. “We want to start with businesses.”

Richard Huggins, Starbucks’ district manager for the Southeast said every company-operated Starbucks will be a “Safe Place,” but not the smaller locations in Target and Harris Teeter because those are not operated by Starbucks.

Huggins said he didn’t know if the Starbucks “Safe Place” locations had any connection to the incident in Philadelphia in April when police there arrested two African American men who were waiting in a Starbucks. A video of the arrest went viral. Huggins said the Durham Police Department reached out to Starbucks about the new program.

Huggins said Starbucks’ culture is inclusive and the company wants LGBT people to feel welcome in its stores.

No specific incident prompted the program. Davis said the initiative is “really just another effort for the Durham Police Department to demonstrate our continued commitment to diversity.”

In September, new organizers of Durham’s annual Pride festival asked that police not march in the parade in uniform or bring squad cars. The department agreed to the request. Police spokesman Wil Glenn said officers wore DPD polo shirts instead and participated as individuals, not as a department aside from those officers working parade traffic control.

Glenn said that was a change from previous years, and that police are certainly open to Pride’s requests about participating again next year.

Durham “Safe Place” locations so far:

▪ Starbucks, 3801 Guess Road

▪ Starbucks, 1119 Slater Road

▪ Starbucks, 4834 N.C. 55

▪ Starbucks, 6813 Fayetteville Road

▪ Starbucks, 5319 New Hope Commons Drive

▪ Starbucks, 4201 N. Roxboro St.

▪ Starbucks, 4010 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd.

▪ Starbucks, 6910 Fayetteville Road

▪ Parker & Otis, 112 S. Duke St.

▪ Chet Miller, 118 W. Parrish St.

▪ Parlor Ice Cream Shoppe, 117 Market St.

▪ Unscripted Hotel, 202 Corcoran St.

▪ Toast, 345 W. Main St.

▪ Tiny, 770 Ninth St. (upon opening in November)

What being a “Safe Place” means:

▪ Hosting a Safe Place presentation on site by the Durham Police Department’s LGBTQ officer;

▪ Displaying Safe Place program materials like a decal at the front entrance of a business, organization or school;

▪ Providing temporary refuge for people who have been harassed or experienced a hate crime to wait until authorities arrive.

To become a DPD “Safe Place,” visit durhampolice.com and got to “Community Services,” then “LGBTQ liasion” then “Safe Place.”

Durham Police Officer Charles Strickland is the department’s first LGBTQ liaison. He was hired in 2016. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@newsobserver.com

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan

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