Police Departments Offer Safe Meet-Up Zones

By KristenGiddings The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A Massachusetts police department has allocated an area in their parking lot as a specific location where people can meet up and make safe transactions of online sales.

DANVILLE

Local police departments are partnering with a mobile marketplace app to create designated meet-up locations for safer transactions.

The Danville Police Department announced on Thursday that they have now partnered with OfferUp, an online marketplace for buying and selling items.

Through this partnership, the police department allocated an area in their parking lot as a specific location where people can meet when making the transaction for the online sale.

"We just created a safe zone where people wouldn't have to worry about anything possibly bad happening," said Danville police Chief Wade Parsons. "It's a different world, so we're trying to provide a little security and comfort level to those people who choose to make those transactions."

Recently rolling out this concept, OfferUp is reaching out to different police stations asking if they would like to participate in the program.

"Facilitating trust and security between individuals has always been a number one priority for us," Natalie Angelillo, vice president of community at OfferUp. "Giving our users the confidence to meet each other in person is critical to our mission as a company."

Parsons said as soon as the department heard about the program, they knew it was a great idea and something they wanted to be a part of.

And many residents agree.

"I think every town should have this," said Danville resident Sean Rudd, 44.

Rudd said the program is especially helpful for ensuring the safety of women who are making a transaction alone. "I know I have had to leave work early to help somebody in the neighborhood ... this makes everybody more comfortable," said Rudd. "It's unfortunate that the world has come to this, but you have to protect yourself."

Parsons said that the department posted the new program to social media on Thursday and the announcement had reached over 5,600 people by Friday morning.

"We've gotten nothing but positive responses ... I know people are happy to see that kind to service available to them"

Angelillo said OfferUp started rolling out the community meet up spots at the beginning of this year.

"There are more than 40 locations available in Massachusetts and New Hampshire with 23 of those being OfferUp Community MeetUp spots," said Angelillo. "We are in touch with thousands of police departments across the U.S. to develop local community meet-up spots and are so excited about the potential of this program. We're continuing to roll out new locations on a regular basis."

Atkinson police also recently partnered with OfferUp and allocated one of their public parking spaces as a safe zone for the internet transactions.

OfferUp even donates a sign for the police stations to hang in the designated area. People are able to visually be aware of the location and understand that this is a safe option for them.

The sign also informs people that the location is under video surveillance, another method the help ensure the safety of those individuals who are engaging in transactions with strangers.

Parsons said the meet-up location in Danville is under surveillance 24-hours a day.

Atkinson police said they installed a special video camera for the purpose of filming the transactions.

Both police stations encourage people engaging in any form of online sale, whether it be through OfferUp, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc. to take advantage of the safe zone.

"We know there is a lot of transactions taking place on social media and some people have expressed concern," said Parsons.

Although he said there have not been any specific incidents in Danville of a transaction gone wrong, there have been cases of locals being scammed on the internet.

While the partnership with OfferUp is fairly new, Derry police Capt. Vern Thomas said that Derry has offered a safe meet-up location at its station for over a year, an idea that was presented to them by a concerned resident.

Thomas said that individuals were already using the station as a meeting spot, so they decided to officially designate a location and added a sign of their own.

"It just made sense...this is a safe place to do the business if you need to," said Thomas.

While internet transactions have recently grown popularity, using the police station for a transaction is not a new concept, said both Parsons and Thomas.

"People already come here for a safe child transfer, because people don't always get along and this is a safer way to do that," said Thomas.

Parsons also said that whether by court order or by their own choice, many parents engage in an exchange of children for custody situations at the police station in Danville.

"Some of them have been a little hostile," added Parsons.

Whether for custody or internet sales, the meet-up locations aim to create a comfortable environment for the exchange.

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