ROCKLAND — Craigslist may be the largest classified advertisement websites in the world, but meeting up with strangers can get sketchy. And enough deals have gone bad —robberies, rapes, assaults, even homicide — that police stations around the country have begun to set up clearly marked, well-lit areas under surveillance for Craigslist exchanges.
In September, the Rockland Police Department decided to establish two safe exchange zones as well. One is designated right in their own parking lot at 1 Police Plaza and the other is in J.C. Penney’s parking lot in the Rockland Plaza.
“A couple of other agencies in the state have been doing this and Officer William Smith brought the idea to me, so I told him to to go ahead put it together,” said Deputy Chief Christopher Young. “Obviously, our parking lot is probably one of the safest places to exchange or sell an item, but the representatives from Rockland Plaza were willing to get on board and offer another site. They have great surveillance in that area as well.”
Young said he hasn’t seen any incidents prior to setting up these zones, but said, “Any time these exchanges take place, there’s is always the potential for something to go wrong. It’s not just a matter of personal safety, but if something were fraudulent in the exchange or a theft, we’d have a license plate on camera and identification of someone on camera.”
Another advantage of preparing to meet at a safe exchange zone is to gauge the intent of the person you’re trying to meet.
“If that person did not want to meet at this designated space, that would be a red flag, a real concern if I were on the other half of that transaction,” said Young.
Young had other common sense tips for setting up a safe exchange.
“Meeting in broad daylight is always better,” he said. “I understand that people have to work, but try to make the exchange on a day off rather than at night after work. Also, bring another adult with you. If someone intended to meet up with you for nefarious purposes, having another adult there is probably going to curb anything he or she intend to do. And when you do the exchange, conduct it outside the vehicle. Don’t ever get into the other person’s vehicle.”
Beyond Craiglist, these safe zones are also useful for selling household items, virtual yard sales, car sales and money exchanges. One exception, which Young stresses, is that gun sales at these zones are prohibited.
“Given the climate across the country right now, the last place we want to see gun transactions taking place are in the middle of a busy parking lot. The decision to limit the sale of firearms was not done to infringe upon anyone’s second amendment rights. It was the decision of the police department to limit these transactions to avoid a potential tragedy. It’s that simple.”
Young points out that if someone has a constitutional right to carry a gun (and is not meeting for the purpose of selling it), that’s different and allowed.
“I would just say for your safety, and the safety of our officers, keep it concealed,” he said.
If you have any questions about these safe exchange zones, contact the Rockland Police Department at call: 207-593-9132
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org