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As crime continues, police create more ‘safe zones’ for online deals

AP

A Texas woman was stabbed Thursday by a man who went to her house for a Craigslist transaction, Corpus Christi police said.

Across the country, police departments are moving to make such transactions less dangerous by creating “safe zones” for residents to buy and sell items online. Some sites are right outside police departments or on police grounds. Some are monitored by 24-hour cameras, while others rely on the constant presence of police officers to ensure online deals don’t turn sour.

Corpus Christi has several designated sites outside public libraries for online transactions.

The idea seems to have started in Boca Raton, Florida, two years ago.

“Over the summer of 2014,” Boca Raton Officer Sandra Boonenberg told the Washington Post, “we had three or four different robberies where the victim had made arrangements to meet someone to see either an iPhone or a computer. They met them in public places — one happened at a gas station — and they still got robbed. We decided we’re going to have to come up with something better, and the chief [Daniel C. Alexander] came up with the idea to use the police department for transactions.”

The online marketplace says it has “billions of human interactions,” and its growth in popularity has brought along an increase in crime. Robberies, assaults and rapes have been linked to transactions initiated on Craigslist, and as of January, over 100 people had been killed during a deal gone wrong.

Craigslist encourages people using its site to buy and sell items to “insist on a public meeting place” and not to “invite strangers into your home.” It warns that users should be particularly careful when dealing with high value items, tell someone where they are going before they meet a stranger or have a friend go with them, and bring a cell phone along.

Several websites track safe zones that have been set up across the country.

The Hartford, Connecticut, police department has designated the parking lot outside its headquarters as a safe zone monitored by cameras 24 hours a day.

“If it’s gonna prevent a robbery, if it’s gonna prevent a homicide, if it’s gonna make our citizens feel safe ... we can live with it,” Brian Foley, Hartford’s chief of detectives, told NPR. “We don’t want it to become a flea market out there, but certainly it hasn’t been a problem.”

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