Petaluma launches ‘Safe Space’ program during Pride Month
Petaluma officials are partnering with police to launch a new program aimed at tackling hate crimes and increasing “safety for all.”
The Safe Space program will allow for local businesses, schools, places of worship and nonprofits to become designated safe areas for those who feel threatened or believe they were victims of hate crimes, city officials announced in a June 6 news release.
“The Safe Space program is our agency telling the community that we are here for you,” said Jennifer Pritchard, Community Engagement Liaison at the Petaluma Police Department.
Now used at more than 300 agencies across the nation, the Safe Space program was first launched in Seattle in 2015 by a police officer who was a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. While the program focuses largely on preventing hate crimes against those who identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+, Petaluma officials said it will also be used as a tool in protecting all people in the city, “regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion or age.”
To become a part of the program, organizations can visit https://cityofpetaluma.org/safe-space. All who sign up will receive a decal to display outside their business or organization.
Those decals serve as a symbol of agreement to protect all people in the community, officials said in the release. That includes allowing victims to remain on their premises until police arrive, assisting in contacting 9-1-1 immediately to report a hate crime, and instructing all employees or volunteers to give any other necessary assistance.
Petaluma Police Officer Morgan Rasmason, who identifies with the LGBTQIA+ community, said she is excited for the program, and that she hopes it will ensure that “all people feel at ease and protected from hate.”
“It is important to show that we welcome, support, and protect all members of our community,” Rasmason said in the news release. “It can be hard enough trying to figure out who you are in life but when who you are is part of a marginalized group, it can create new fears or struggles.”
The Petaluma Police Department aims to enroll 500 local organizations in the Safe Space program by June 30. Pritchard said in an email, volunteers have contacted about half of Petaluma’s community organizations to inform them of the program and will continue to do so until all are approached.
JoAnne Machado, a volunteer with the Petaluma Police Department helping to get the word out about the Safe Space program, said the response from organizations has been “wonderful and heartfelt.”
“I took this assignment because I feel disturbed about all the hateful discrimination that is happening,” Machado said in a Tuesday afternoon text message. “We as a community need to stick together to protect one another.”
Among the first to participate are Copperfield’s Books on Kentucky Street and Passeggiata Shoes on Western Avenue, Pritchard said.
According to the Department of Justice, a hate crime can often be a violent one, such as assault, murder, arson, vandalism, or threats to commit such crimes, based on someone’s race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
Amelia Parreira is a staff writer for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at email@example.com or 707-521-5208.