As we launch into the enjoyment of the Holiday Season, many of us will be meeting friends or attending functions at bars and/or clubs. Though these establishments can be focal points for fun and laughter, they can also be target locations for sexual predators. With a very forward-thinking partnership two local counties want to help put a stop to any potential problems. Albany and Schenectady have teamed up to help make "Safer Bars" and they are empowering bar owners and staff to make a difference.

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"I think it's a great program. It was really helpful for the staff to hear about scenarios and how to deal with difficult situations that they might encounter," Alicia Hendricks, general manager of Albany Distilling Co., told Steve Barnes of timesunion.com. Barnes wrote a great article on the Safer Bars program in Albany and Schenectady counties that many had no idea existed.

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"We talk about safe ways of intervening," JoLynn Backes, coordinator of community education for the Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Centers told timesunion.com. "We're not asking people to put on superhero capes or wrestle somebody to the ground. But there are definitely things staff can do. First they have to know what to look for." According to Barnes, establishments must have at least 70 percent of staff who deal with customers, such as bartenders, servers, hosts and managers attend two training sessions, each three hours long. Accreditation lasts for one year, with an annual renewal class of 2½ hours for re-certification. Businesses that complete the requirements receive signs for front doors, windows and restrooms to indicate their participation.

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"The staff was unanimous that they wanted to do it. I wasn't going force it on them, but when we put it to a vote, everybody agreed," Eddie Del Castillo, taproom manager for Wolf Hollow Brewing in West Glenville told Steve Barnes. "Everybody said they found it useful to learn about the blind spots we all may have about some things, and how a situation that seems OK from one point of view might not be from another point of view." We hear about tragedies of sexual assault nearly every day in the news. It's encouraging to see Capital Region counties working together to take charge of the problem. As per Steve Barnes "Bar and restaurant owners or managers who wish to learn more about the Safer Bars program may contact JoLynn Backes at the Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center: jolynn.backes@albanycountyny.gov."

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