NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Wednesday’s news conference took place at Roadside Blooms, as North Charleston Police explained what the Safe Place Program is, and officially declared Roadside Blooms the first Safe Place in North Charleston.

North Charleston Police Department (NCPD) is teaming up with local businesses to make North Charleston a Safe Place.

“Today,” NCPD Cpl. Paiam Etminan said, “we announced that the North Charleston Police Department became the 343rd agency in the world to adopt the Safe Place Program.”

The program was founded by the Seattle Police Department and gives victims of hate or bias crimes a Safe Place to go for refuge after an incident occurs until police arrives.

“The North Charleston Police Department cannot do the job without the support and participation of the community and the businesses in our city,” Etminan said. “And the businesses in our city are just as much a part of the community as the residents.”

Roadside Blooms, located on Spruill Avenue, is now the first Safe place in the city. Owner Toni Reale says she jumped at the opportunity for her business to become a Safe Place because she wants her shop to be inclusive and open to everyone.

“As a community,” Reale said, “we are all here in life together; it’s our job to take care of each other and I’m so proud that Roadside Blooms is one of the first businesses to participate in this program.”

North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess says hate crimes are on the rise, and his department adopting the Safe Place Program shows that they stand firmly against hate of any kind.

“There’s a lot of hate out here,” Burgess said, “and the only way we’re going to conquer hate is with love. What you see this business doing is love, and we have to support that. So, all we’re asking the folks who are victimized in any kind of way, there’s a safe haven place for you, just get there and let us do our job.”

NCPD is looking forward to more local businesses signing on to become Safe Places as well.