The chief of the San Francisco Police Department announced on April 15 that all ten of its precincts are now designated safe zones for LGBT people to report crimes.
At a news conference at the Mission police station, chief of police Greg Suhr talked about the installation of “LGBT Safe Zone” signs in station windows, noting them as places where LGBT members of the community can be assured that they will be treated with compassion and respect. As part of a Stop the Violence project, the SFPD is partnering with the LGBT Community Advisory Forum, which works with the Castro Community on Patrol as well as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Suhr explained that people who are LGBT are less likely to report crimes due to shame or fear of being victimized again by the very people who are supposed to help them. The goal of the new initiative is to let them feel more comfortable filing reports, which will also allow the SFPD to compile more accurate statistics of offenses such as hate crimes committed against the LGBT community.
Suhr also talked about the need for outreach to improve relations with the community. The long history of distrust towards law enforcement from LGBT peoples stems from before Stonewall, with reports of anti-LGBT police brutality still making the news to this day—something Suhr stated needs to change. He aims to have a progressively-minded force, emphasizing that “We’re a police department for everybody.” Victims of crime will also have the option of speaking to a LGBT liaison officer if desired.
The LGBT Safe Zone initiative was started in response to the assault of a transgender woman in the Mission District earlier this year, in just one of a rising number of anti-transgender crimes in the area. It’s hoped that outreach programs will encourage LGBT people to turn to the police more often, and in turn reduce the number of crimes committed against members of the community.
The SFPD could not be immediately reached for comment.