The Cocoa Police Department in Cocoa, Fla., has created an Internet Purchase Exchange Zone at police headquarters at 1226 W. King St.
The east parking lot of the building is a well-lighted area that is under 24-hour video surveillance.
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Online purchases from Craigslist, Facebook or other internet classifieds can be risky business. In some cases, people making these transactions fall victim to a crime. That’s why the Cocoa Police Department has created an Internet Purchase Exchange Zone at police headquarters, located at 1226 W. King Street.
In Chipley, Fla, Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews hopes to ensure that online transactions are completed safely by implementing "Safe Exchange Zones," designated parking spaces located just off the sheriff's office Third Street entrance.
The parking spaces are under 24-hour video surveillance and have been registered with www.safedeal.zone, a national safe zone location data base.
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In Sarasota, Fla., several locations throughout the Suncoast are deemed Safe Places, meaning people can do online transactions in a safe environment, such as the lobby of the Sarasota Police Department.
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The Pittsburg Police Department has taken the safe-ground concept out the front door, opening last week what it calls an "exchange zone" in front of the City Hall and police station.
Two specially-marked parking spaces, each with an "exchange zone" sign saying the area "has been designated for conducting private property transactions," are well-lighted and monitored around the clock by surveillance cameras to deter bad-guy buyers and sellers.
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The flaw of Hillsborough’s ‘Safe Place’
By Breanne Williams, The Oracle
Police departments have struggled for years to alleviate the dangers that come with online shopping, and many have resorted to creating “safety zones” for users to safely exchange cash for goods.
College students often use sites such as Craigslist, eBay and campus-specific groups such as the USF Bulls Online Marketplace on Facebook to make purchases. Trying to survive off of minimum wage jobs while taking a full-time course load has caused many students to heavily rely on thrift sites.
Unfortunately, not everyone is honest online. In just the past year, Tampa has seen many cases of robbery and violence, which led to the creation of “Safe Places” — areas around the Bay designated for safe exchanges.
There are four locations in Hillsborough, all at a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Patrol District parking lot, but there is not a designated space at the location for the interactions to take place.
Dade City Police Chief Ray Velboom saw the flaw in Hillsborough and other counties’ idea and went one step further when creating a safety zone for Dade City. According to The Tampa Tribune, Velboom set aside two parking spaces in the police department’s parking lot that will have good lighting and 24-hour video surveillance.
“The reason we designated these spaces is because those are areas that would be caught on camera well,” Brian Uppercue, the department’s spokesman, told The Tampa Tribune. “If folks go to other parking lots or other police stations, they may not be picked up on surveillance.”
Hillsborough should adopt Dade City’s policy and set aside spaces for these exchanges. Knowing there is surveillance will hopefully dissuade wrongdoers from attempting to scam customers.
If they do, at least it will be caught on camera so they can easily be prosecuted.
Having safety zones will allow people to safely purchase and sell goods without having to fear being robbed or taken advantage of.
With stories such as the Georgia couple that was robbed and murdered by a Craigslist seller — along with the other 45 Craigslist-related murders since 2009 — it’s no wonder police are seeking safer methods for the transactions.
It goes without saying one should never go alone, go without a cell phone or go to an isolated location when meeting a stranger to pick up an item. Still, many of the crimes have happened in broad daylight and in a busy location.
That’s why the monitoring of safety zones is so important. Now students and all members of the community can safely meet to get cheap goods. You don’t have to worry about risking harm when purchasing a new cell phone or couch.
If someone is selling something stolen or is planning to pull a quick one on his buyer, he will not want to meet at a police station to do the exchange, especially if that area is under constant video surveillance.
Safety zones are a simple solution to a growing problem in the community. Dade City found a way to reduce the dangers that come with interacting with strangers. Hillsborough would be wise to follow in its footsteps and set aside parking spaces specifically for these types of activities to keep the general public as safe as possible.
All sales final: Cities provide e-commerce zones to thwart crime
John Bacon, USA TODAY4:02 p.m. EDT April 21, 2016
The last straw in Boca Raton, Fla., was when someone sold a MacBook Pro on Craigslist and met the prospective buyer inside a Barnes & Noble, only to have the suspect snatch the computer and run out of the store.
"They did everything we ask people to do when exchanging goods after an online sale," police spokesman Mark Economou said. "Public place, well lit, a safe place. And still a crime was committed."
Police made an arrest in the case. They also announced the opening of the police station lobby and parking lot for property sales and exchanges. No questions asked. Chief Daniel Alexander figured that someone planning a crime is a lot less likely to commit one at police headquarters.
"We invite you to do your deal (legal, that is) at our place," Chief Daniel Alexander said in a blog that wrapped with a recurring, iconic line from the 1980s cop show Hill Street Blues. "Let’s be careful out there."
Boca Raton learned its lesson 18 months ago. On Thursday, Washington, D.C., joined the growing list of cites providing e-commerce safe zones designed to curb the crime that can occur when closing an online deal. The city unveiled three "Exchange Zone" areas, well-lit and near police stations, "giving Washingtonians a safe place to purchase or exchange property," Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.
The crimes the zones target can be more serious than theft. Advanced Interactive Media Group (AIM), an industry watchdog, says more than 100 murders have taken place through Craigslist connections.
The most notorious case involved Boston University medical student Philip Markoff, dubbed "the Craigslist killer," who was accused of murdering a woman who offered massage services on the site. Markoff, also accused of robbing two other women, committed suicide in his cell in 2010 while awaiting trial.
Scores of police departments now provide some type of safe zone. AIM operates a website, safetradestations.com, that provides safe locations for e-commerce exchanges across the nation.
Craigslist says its transactions are safe, that the number of thefts and violent crime are minuscule compared to the number of transactions made every day. But it does have a safety page suggesting, among other things, that buyers and sellers "insist on a public meeting place like a cafe, bank, or shopping center. Do not meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home."
In North Miami, Fla., where a man was fatally shot in 2009 while selling a Rolex in an online deal gone bad, police have designated two parking spots for transactions. InHartford, Conn., "Operation Safe Lot" welcomes dealmakers to a parking lot in front police headquarters. Hartford has its own Craigslist murder case; police say a man was killed in 2013 while selling computer tablets.
"That case was a main driving point in putting this together," Assistant Chief Brian Foley said. "I can tell you that our Craigslist robberies have virtually dropped off the face of the earth."
Delta Township, Mich., posted "E-Commerce Exchange Zone" signs in the parking lot of the sheriff's office this week. Supervisor Ken Fletcher says they haven't had much of a problem with transaction crimes, but "for a couple hundred bucks of signage it's worth it."
In Overland Park, Kan., police spokesman Richard Breshears said the headquarters lobby and parking lot are open 24/7 for people wanting to conduct transactions. The only problem he can foresee is that, if the program grows too popular, it could disrupt day-to-day business. But so far the advantages outweigh any concerns, he said.
"We want people who are suspicious about a deal to use the space," he said. "Criminals don't usually want to come to the police department for any reason. And if something were to happen, we don't have to send officers out. We can respond right there."
Police stations across the country are encouraging sellers and buyers to meet at police stations to exchange goods. In South Florida, police departments, including Miami-Dade, North Miami, Miami Beach, Pinecrest and the Broward Sheriff’s Office, are spreading the word that police stations are the safest place to conduct an online sales transaction.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article71526772.html#storylink=cpy
Pinecrest Village officials announced Thursday they are now offering their police department’s lobby and parking lots, 24 hours every day, to those looking to buy and sell items via classified advertisement websites, such as Craigslist.
The Lady Lake Police Department is offering the use of its police station lobby and parking lot for residents looking for a safe place to conduct transactions arranged online from Craigslist and other online marketplaces.The lobby is open Monday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The parking lot is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No appointment is necessary. The Lady Lake Police Department is located at 423 Fennell Blvd., behind Lady Lake Town Hall on U.S. Hwy. 27/441.