Baltimore County Police launches Safe Space Initiative to strengthen relationship with LGBTQ community

By: Theo Velasquez-Arreaga, Contributing Writer

In an effort to strengthen its relationship with the county’s LGBTQ residents, the Baltimore County Police Department launched a Safe Space Initiative, a program for community members and business to serve as a safety hubs for members within the LGBTQ community, on Nov. 25.

The program gives community members, businesses, schools and organizations the option to register as safe spaces where those within the LGBTQ community can receive help in case of harassment or a hate crime, according to a press release from the Baltimore County Government. Those who register will receive a “safe space” decal, indicating their program participation.

Since the soft launch on Nov. 28, over 39 Baltimore County businesses have requested a “Safe Space” decal to display at their establishments, County Detective Jimmy Waites said. 

In cases of harassment or crime, the participants will contact County Police and provide a place for the victim to wait safely until the police arrive. 

There are no prerequisite requirements to participate in the program, Waites said.

“The only requirement is the willingness to help another person in need, no matter how the victim identifies and no matter the crime,” Waites said.

While no apparent increase in LGBTQ hate crimes has been noticed, Waites said the initiative is a proactive choice to show that the police department and its resources are accessible to all residents. He added that information regarding the initiative had been sent out to officers, along with training on the program and how to handle related situations. 

Trek Bicycles in Towson served as one of the initial participants in the program when it launched.

“We here at Trek support everyone in our community, and this includes members of the [LGBTQ] community,” Manager Sean Fitchett said in an email.  

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He said he hopes that other establishments carry the same values of inclusion toward everyone in their community.

Waites said he and his nephew, who is a commercial artist in Boston, created the decal to include the colors that compose the Progress Pride Flag. The Progress Flag, according to the Grand Rapids Pride Center, includes five additional colors to the original Pride Flag to represent marginalized groups within the LGBTQ community, including people of color and those within the transgender community,

Waites said he wanted something that everyone could relate to and could further help cultivate that safe space where potential hate crime victims would feel comfortable in reaching out for help. 

“It was really important for me to use colors that we chose that are very symbolic with the gay community,” Waites said. 

In addition to the Safe Space Initiative, Waites will serve as the department’s inaugural LGBTQ Liaison.

Waites said the offer to step into the role came after a conversation with his department’s chief regarding issues surrounding LGBTQ community members. 

“That was a huge honor for me, to be bestowed upon me for our community,” Waites, a member of the LGBTQ community, said. 

He said he hoped this program would amend any mistrust barriers between the LGBTQ community and the police department. 

Waites’ said his past experiences, specifically while serving in the United States Navy during the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell era, pushed him to increase awareness surrounding LGBTQ issues as he understands the difficulties that come with not being seen or heard as an LGBTQ person.

From 1993 to 2011, members of the U.S. Military who were a part of the LGBTQ community were not required to disclose their sexuality, but, if the military found out about it, they were subjected to a discharge of service, the Legal Information institute explained.

As liaison, Waites is the source for anyone with questions or concerns regarding the LGBTQ community. Additionally, he said he hopes to create reference guides soon that would list local organizations and outreach programs that are accessible to the LGBTQ community. 

“We see them, we hear them, and we are here for them,” said Waites.


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