Cities throughout the state have been responding to safety concerns from residents about online purchases by creating monitored safe zones at police stations for transfers of goods.
There are several online platforms such as online auctions, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace, where buyers and sellers will need to meet in person to make a transaction.
As a result of nationwide trends in robberies related to internet sales transactions, cities around Ohio have established secure, well-lit, monitored areas for these transactions to take place.
The safe zones are generally located at police substations where residents can conduct their transactions knowing that the exchange is being recorded by city-owned video surveillance cameras. Marked police vehicles, as well as officers, can be expected to be on location at any given time.
“Our intention behind the Safe Exchange Zone is to prevent potential fraud and robberies that can be associated with these types of transactions,” Dublin Police Department Chief Justin Páez said. “We want to continue to protect our residents to the best of our abilities and this is another service we can offer to keep everyone safe.”
According to the Toledo Police Department, although officers are always present at the station they will not mediate private transactions, and will only intervene if the transaction becomes disorderly or otherwise becomes a criminal matter.
The specific guidelines and designated areas can differ between police departments, but generally, these safe zones are intended for person-to-person exchanges. Drop offs of products is not allowed, nor are weapons or illegal merchandise.
Signs designate safe-zone locations and are within view of a surveillance camera. They will often list emergency and non-emergency telephone numbers.
“Even at a police department, things can happen,” former Beachwood Police Chief Gary Haba said in 2017 when the area there was established. “It is important to always be aware of your surroundings. Using this area is safer than a random location or having the buyer go to your residence.”
The Hudson Police Department recommends when engaging in an internet transaction an individual should take someone with them to meet at a location other than their home, during daylight hours, and limit the amount of personal information disclosed.
Ohio residents can check where safe zones are located nearest to them by going to either their local police department website or the city website.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Person Shopping Online” by Olya Kobruseva.