Call it a sign of the times: Area police departments are welcoming residents to “safe trade zones” that law enforcement agencies have set up so people can make exchanges from online transactions.
The Raytown Police Department in July was among the latest in the Kansas City area to do so, designating the south side of the back parking lot at its headquarters, 10000 E. 59th St., for transactions on such sites as Craigslist.
It’s a commendable idea. The safe trade zones are in response to reports of people being robbed or harmed when meeting strangers for exchanges after online transactions. The designated space also helps create a needed bubble of trust at a time when that societal value is increasingly battered by acts of violence and fear. Neither is unfounded.
A Liberty couple was robbed and suffered serious gunshot wounds on July 16, 2014, after meeting an alleged Craigslist seller in southeast Kansas City about an automobile. The crime was part of a string of Craigslist robberies in the area that led to seven victims identifying the suspect from a police photo lineup. Three persons have pleaded guilty.
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Crime tied to online transactions involving cars, boats, appliances and even jobs is a national problem. Last month, a Texas woman was stabbed by a man who went to her house for a Craigslist transaction, Corpus Christi police reported. More than 100 murders have been linked to Craigslist, The Washington Post reported this year.
Craigslist’s “personal safety” website notes that few of the crimes committed in the U.S. are tied to Craigslist. “The overwhelming majority of Craigslist users are trustworthy and well-meaning,” the website says.
Craigslist does offer useful tips to people meeting someone for the first time. They include being careful buying or selling high value items, notifying a trusted person of the transaction, taking a cellphone and another individual for safety and using a public meeting space. Police safe trade zones fit that criteria.
The Raytown Police Department joins the Clay County Sheriff’s Office in Liberty and the Lee’s Summit Police Department with designated safe trade zones for people. Kansas City police and other area departments say people can use patrol stations for safe transactions — all except firearms. That’s wise.
Being able to go to police stations for exchanges provides people with peace of mind and patches a big internet-related hole in the fabric of societal trust.