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Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office announces Safe Place Program to aid victims of hate crimes

The Safe Place program, which supports those affected by acts of bias and hate, was recently introduced by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office at the Middlesex County Courthouse following a Pride flag-raising ceremony.  – Photo by Jacob Callahan / LinkedIn

On June 3, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office announced the initiation of the Safe Place Program at a Pride flag-raising event outside the Middlesex County Courthouse.

The Safe Place Program, first piloted in Seattle in 2015, is a collaborative effort between law enforcement officers, community leaders, educational institutions and local establishments to create refuges for victims of hate crimes and other acts of discrimination.

The program has already taken effect in Woodbridge, Highland Park, Metuchen and Monroe, and was recently introduced in New Brunswick and at Rutgers. Participating locations will display decals provided by the County Prosecutor’s Office to indicate their status as a sanctuary.

To serve as a safe place, employees of the designated area are required to immediately call law enforcement for any victims that enter the area and allow them to stay there until enforcement personnel arrives. Any non-residential premise can become a safe place at no cost.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone said the Safe Place program calls on local communities to work toward being more inclusive and safe.

“As we roll out this program to more townships, we invite all members of the community to become invested and to help the most vulnerable members of our communities feel safe and welcomed,” Ciccone said.

The program’s announcement comes during Pride month and a year which has seen a record of more than 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced into state legislatures, according to an ongoing report by the Human Rights Campaign.

The timing of the program’s announcement was also referenced by Middlesex County Commissioner Charles Kenny, who called on the community to support one another.

“This Pride Month and beyond, it is important that we celebrate our differences, and provide shelter to those in need of a safe place,” Kenny said. “This program will help us do that.”

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