A growing number of police departments in the state are using their properties to provide a safe exchange area for residents who buy and sell products on internet websites, especially Craigslist.
And a number of them – the latest one being Guilford – are using their police department’s website or social media page – to promote the service to the town residents they serve.
Even though the Guilford Police Department, according to Sgt. Chris Massey, has provided the safe exchange service “for awhile,’’ the service is receiving renewed attention with its police department’s Facebook post, which reads: “The Guilford Police Department is proud to provide our community with a safe exchange location for items purchased over various internet sites.
“Internet purchases with local pick-up are extremely popular,’’ the police department’s Facebook post continues, “but finding a place for the exchange can be challenging. Our front parking lot has two parking spaces prominently placed in front of cameras for our residents who are making purchases or selling items.’’
Guilford is not unique in having its police department providing the safe exchange service.
Hartford, Waterford and Montville, among other police departments, offer their parking lots or lobbies as safe exchange areas. Additionally, transactions can be made at any Connecticut State Police barracks parking lot, or lobby.
Craigslist has updated its safety page, with a statement encouraging users to make exchanges at local police stations.
According to an analysis by news organization Law Street Media, there have been at least 45 murder victims connected to Craigslist postings since 2009.
Guilford’s safe exchange area is being applauded by fans of its Facebook page. One commenter said: “That’s a very good idea, particularly since the station is so convenient to 95.’’
Another commenter added: “This is an awesome idea being put into effect. I hope more law enforcement buildings can provide this opportunity to the public. Thank you for being that one step ahead!’’
The Guilford police station is located a few hundred yards off exit 58 of Interstate 95. Because of that proximity to the highway the department said, again on its Facebook page, that it would offer its drop off service to residents of nearby towns whose police departments don’t provide similar services.
“It’s just a much safer way, a safer option of doing this sort transaction. There is always somebody here, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are cameras surveilling the property, the transaction,” Massey said.
He said there are always stories about somebody getting robbed or worse during an internet transaction.
“The reality is if someone is making a transaction at the police station, chances are you are dealing with a more reputable person and you are less likely to be a victim of fraud, or worse,” Massey said.
Guilford Police Detective Martina Jakober, who also serves as crime prevention officer, came up with the idea of creating the safe zone area in Guilford. She said she proposed the idea when she “saw other departments were utilizing safe drop off zones as a means to prevent crime against their residents using online marketplaces to conduct transactions.’’
Massey added the safe area in front of the police department is also used often for other potentially volatile situations, notably child custodial drop offs between feuding parents.
On the city of Hartford’s police station website, http://www.hartford.gov/POLICE, residents are also being encouraged to be cautious with their online buying and selling.
The Hartford police website tells residents: “Craigslist transactions that have turned into robberies and/or violent encounters have become a nationwide trend and a problem for police department across the country. Often, one of the consenting parties on either side of these transactions is robbed of their money and/or belongings.
“Certainly, the greater Hartford region has experienced this trend firsthand. As we have painfully seen in Hartford, these types of incidents have had great potential for violence.’’
The website statement adds: “The Hartford Police Department is offering its public parking lot as a suggested location option for these transactions. While our lot is not very large, it is a strain we are willing to deal with to ensure these potentially violent encounters do not occur.’’