The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office and Powell Police Department are two new “safe places” to meet for online transactions — now that both agencies have created designated “safe zones” in their parking lots.
Both the parking lots of the Delaware County Jail on U.S. 42 and the Powell municipal building now have two spots designated for strangers who are meeting for transactions through websites like Craigslist.
Megan Canavan, public information officer at the city of Powell, said the safe zones and signs were the idea of an officer, Ben Boruchowitz, who began researching the topic, as police-sanctioned “safe zones” become more prevalent nationwide in order to prevent robberies or fraud.
“We started seeing other communities across the U.S. do it and we’ve seen a big rise in buy-sell-trade sites,” Canavan said. “We really just wanted to provide a safe space for item exchanges.”
Canavan said the two parking spots are near a light and within range of the police department’s surveillance cameras, which are active 24 hours a day.
Similarly, Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin said the safe zones are a proactive response to trends.
“The methods of providing for the safety of our residents often evolve as technology and society changes,” Martin said. “This safe zone is an ideal way to provide for a safe environment for the many online purchases made locally among residents. It is an efficient and cost-effective way for our office to help people feel safe.”
Martin added that crimes that occur during these deals are not a common occurrence in Delaware County but said they are crimes of opportunity and the safe zones will decrease the likelihood of it happening.
Capt. Adam Moore, a spokesman at the Delaware Police Department, said that while the police department in Delaware does not have designated parking spots, members of the community are welcome to meet for online transactions in the lobby or parking lot of the police department building on North Union Street. Canavan and Moore said that police parking lots have been designated areas for custody exchanges for years.
“In some cases, it’s written right in the divorce decree that the custody exchanges must be done in the police department lot,” Moore said.
Moore added that there is always an officer on duty if people are worried about transactions and would like an officer present.
“I would always encourage anyone engaging in those transactions to pick up the phone in the lobby and ask for an officer,” Moore said. Moore also said buyers or sellers should be wary if the other party refuses to meet in the parking lot of a police station.
“You need to take steps to protect yourself,” Moore said. “You don’t truly know who you are talking to when you are talking computer to computer.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.