In the wake of the Pulse mass shooting inside a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 50 dead and another 58 injured, businesses around Orlando made it known that they would be a safe haven for the city’s LGBTQ community.
As a part of Orlando’s Safe Place Initiative, which launched six months after the shooting, the Orlando Police Department distributed a rainbow decal in the shape of a police badge that was meant to go in the window of offices and organizations that wanted to participate.
The message was simple: this is a safe place for the LGBTQ community. Anyone being harassed or threatened can enter this business and it will be a safe haven — they can use the phone to call the police and wait inside if they need to. The initiative was modeled after a similar one was instituted in Seattle.
When Miami Beach commissioner Michael Grieco learned about this program he wanted to bring it to his own municipality, SAVE helped Grieco connect with Detective Juan Sanchez, the LGBTQ liason at the Miami Beach Police Department.
Grieco drafted the legislation and helped get the policy passed at the City of Miami Beach while Sanchez sought guidance from the Seattle and Orlando police departments about how to bring this initiative to the Miami Beach Police Department. Within just a few weeks, on January 11, 2017, Grieco, Sanchez, and SAVE were able to launch Miami Beach’s very own Safe Places Initiative.
Local businesses were encouraged to opt in after which they received a “SAFE PLACE” decal and poster to hang in their windows. Within minutes of the Safe Place initiative launching, the requests were already coming in, Sanchez said.
“The New World Symphony signed up right after it got approved by the commission, they were our first business to sign up,” he remembered. “Now we have close to 50 signups… hopefully by the end of the year I want to get up to 100.”
He’s also helping other police departments, like the Hallandale Beach Police Department, institute its own program.
“The LGBTQ community is a large aspect of our demographics in our city and people should know they have a safe place” Sanchez said.
Why is this important?
In the aftermath of Pulse and with an increase in hate speech and hate crimes nationally, it’s important to demonstrate solidarity with LGBTQ members of our community by providing a temporary sanctuary and a safe haven if they are feeling threatened.
Where South Florida stands
The Miami Beach Police Department is the only one in South Florida to enact a Safe Place initiative. It’s the third police department in the country to do so, following Seattle and Orlando. The Hallandale Beach police department is working with Miami Beach to enact their own, while the City of Miami will likely soon add on an LGBTQ liaison.
What cities are doing best
Taking the lead and making sure LGBTQ members of the community have a safe haven and know they are welcome in the city of Miami Beach.
How can we do better?
Other police departments can appoint an LGBTQ liaison, similar to Miami Beach, and enact safe space initiatives in their own jurisdictions.
How do I get involved?
Urge your local representatives to partner with their police departments to pass similar initiatives.