Greenwood Police Encourage Use of “Safe Exchange Zone” In Parking Lot

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GREENWOOD (KFSM) – The Greenwood Police Department installed “Safe Exchange Zones” in its parking lot as an initiative to help keep people safe during transactions with strangers.

“Bad things happen to people that are meeting not just over Craigslist, but you have Facebook sales now, even ticket sales…there’s going to be a risk there that you’re taking, because you’re meeting a stranger," Chief Will Dawson said Sunday (Jan. 17).

The department has dedicated three parking spots in its lot for safe exchange zones.

The goal is for the seller and buyer to meet and have a peaceful transaction, knowing their every move is being caught on camera. Dawson said a camera is recording 24/7, with a light in the parking lot to help capture anything going on at night.

Dawson said in this day and age, it's too risky not to meet in a safe, public place for these transactions.

“There was a couple that went to look at a car with their son; they were both shot and their car was stolen,” Dawson said, recalling an incident he heard about. “There was a person shot in Atlanta, I believe in the beginning of this month, over an iPhone 6."

He said the surveillance camera should make a difference.

“I think that would deter a lot of criminal activity -- to know they're going to be recorded,” he said.

Residents outside of Greenwood are welcome to use the zones, as well as the department’s lobby, when it’s open. The signs were installed this weekend, and the zones are already getting some use.

“We’ve seen a transaction, and also two people exchanging their children for child custody."

Dawson said the signs and camera cost about $700, a price the department is happy to pay so everyone feels safe. The money will also go toward painting the pavement in each zone, when the weather is right.

“It’s absolutely worth the cost to provide a safe area for citizens to come and exchange goods. This will give them a peace of mind when they’re actually going to meet a stranger," Dawson said.

In a press release, the department listed the following tips:

· Use websites you are familiar with
· Never provide personal information over the Internet
· Never purchase anything online using your credit card from a website that does not have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)
· When taking photos, utilize the cut and paste method from a Word document. This will make it harder for the bad guys to utilize GPS location programs to find you.
· Take a photo of just the item you are selling. Items in the background can represent additional targets for the would-be criminal.
· Ask a lot of questions
· Don’t go alone
· Show up early

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The tips above, coupled with trusting your instincts should result in a good experience for both buyer and seller,” the release states.

101 deaths have been linked to Craigslist, according to a blog keeping track of the killings.

The Greenwood Police Department is located at 250 Old Hackett Rd., Greenwood, AR 72936.