By Maria Medina

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — In San Jose, coffee shops and banks will now band together with the police department to help victims of hate crimes.

On Thursday, San Jose police chief Eddie Garcia announced the launch of a new program called SAFE Place and said that Wells Fargo Banks and Starbucks have become the first businesses to agree to train its employees to call police for hate crime victims and keep them safe until officers arrive.

“I hear about hate crimes every single day,” said Billy DeFrank LGBTQ Community Center board president Gabrielle Antolovich. “We’re talking about violence.”

She said that many victims don’t go to police because of fear and she hopes the new program will encourage people to report the crime.

“People are afraid of retaliation,” she said. “If you don’t catch the person who has brutalized you then you’re constantly afraid they’ll come out of the woodwork, if you speak up publicly.”

Antolovich said that many minority groups, including the LGBTQ community who she works closely with, are also hesitant about reporting crimes to the police.

“Whether you’re African American, Asian, Latino or LGBTQ, we are minorities that have mixed reactions to the police and so any kind of effort to heal that I think is important,” Antolovich said.

The program, which was first created by the Seattle police department in 2015, has proved successful. It was originally developed to combat anti-LGBT crimes but then continued to address other types of hate-related crimes.

In 2017, Santa Clara county reported 57 hate crimes.

Antolovich said she witnesses the heartache every day from victims and hopes to see the rainbow-colored decal for the program spread throughout businesses in San Jose, which will in turn spread the message that hate crimes won’t be tolerated in the city.

“So people can walk down the street, have relationships with people, go to parties and not be brutalized,” she said.

The launch of the program was meant to coincide with Silicon Valley Pride activities planned this week.

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