To protect the safety of online customers in Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Police Department announced April 21 the designation of three police stations as exchange zones where buyers of online goods can complete transactions with sellers in a safe environment under the surveillance of police officers.
The move comes after a series of robberies and murders took place across the country when buyers attempted to pick up their goods from sellers, including 57 incidents in the District since last May.
The three exchange zones are located in the lobbies of police stations across the city at 550 Water St. SW, 1620 V St. NW and 5002 Hayes St. NE.
MPD Chief Cathy Lanier said in a statement the exchange zones will provide an opportunity for those living in D.C. to have safe transactions. Lanier encouraged anyone meeting with a seller to have the transaction take place in one of the exchange areas, which are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
“The Exchange Zone will deter many of these robberies by providing well-lit areas that are near police stations, giving Washingtonians a safe place to purchase or exchange property,” Lanier said. “The community can do their part by safely buying, selling and trading online goods at our designated locations.”
MPD Public Affairs Specialist Aquita Brown said because police have seen an increase in robberies involving marketplace apps and websites over the past few years, Lanier decided it was an appropriate time for the MPD to offer a preventative measure to reduce the amount of crime.
According to Brown, several individuals in the District have been targeted through specific marketing apps, such as OfferUp, an app made for purchasing and selling goods online.
“It started off with just a way to provide the community with a safe way to purchase items they were seeing online or whether through other mediums like OfferUp,” Brown said. “We have seen several robberies that have occurred in D.C. involving these types of apps.”
At this time, Brown said she is unsure how many citizens are expected to use the exchange zones.
Georgetown University Police Department Chief Jay Gruber said many robberies involving people buying goods off Craigslist could have been prevented by having the transaction take place in public, well-lit areas.
Gruber praised the MPD’s decision to allow transactions to take place in the lobbies of their police stations.
“There’s a lot of crime that takes place in these situations,” Gruber said. “It’s never a good idea to have somebody come into your home. Going to a public space like a mall is a better idea and even better is using the lobby of a police station.”
Gruber praised the initiative as a step in the right direction as a preventative measure to help those worried about completing an online transaction in person from websites such as Craigslist. Gruber also noted that there is always potential danger involved in meeting a stranger while carrying cash, especially at night.
“I think it’s a great idea and really a good step in the right direction,” Gruber said. “Online sales, especially through Craigslist, when you’re carrying something of value or carrying cash, there’s always a chance where the person might try to rob you and take what you have.”
Gruber also said Georgetown students should consider using these exchange zones if they have purchased goods online. He noted in the future, the GUPD might also consider the institution of measures like this in order to help students.
“I would recommend anybody, especially Georgetown students, if they’re interested in completing a transaction like that, going to one of those locations,” Gruber said. “It’s made me think that it’s something we should be doing here at Georgetown University.”
Brown noted that if a buyer of a good online decides not to use one of the exchange zones due to time or convenience, there are certain procedures that should be followed in order to ensure a safe transaction.
“We wanted to recommend some points as far as if they’re going to use other sites,” Brown said. “Go in the morning time and go with somebody you know.”
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