Police: Meeting at Station for Exchange Increases Safety - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Police: Meeting at Station for Exchange Increases Safety

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MANCHESTER, Md. (AP) - When Manchester Police Chief John Hess' son sold his car on Craigslist recently, his dad had him complete the sale in the parking lot of the police station.

Hess said he would welcome any citizen who wanted to do the same for an online transaction with a stranger.

"Nine out of 10 times, if that person had any criminal thoughts, they're not going to come to a police station," Hess said.

Hess said in other counties where police have noticed a problem with assaults, thefts or other crimes occurring through an online transaction, using police departments as a meeting place has been promoted.

A Delaware man reported Feb. 7 being robbed in Havre de Grace when he was trying to buy a car from someone he met on Craigslist, according to a Baltimore Sun report. The victim met with the suspect, who said he did not have the title with him and told the victim to follow him to an apartment building.

Victims looking to rent a home in Havre de Grace told police they sent money Jan. 30 for a property listed online that ended up being fraudulent, according to the same report.

If a problem arose in Manchester, Hess said he would develop and promote a policy for using the department as a location to complete sales.

Currently, he said, he recommends an active public place during daylight hours. If a citizen calls the Police Department and is interested in meeting there, Hess said he would welcome it.

Sheriff Jim DeWees said he is not aware of any incidents in Carroll County where someone was assaulted or harmed and attributed it to an online transaction.

"The overwhelming majority of Craigslist transactions are done without any problems," he said.

DeWees said he's never heard of using a law enforcement office as a Craigslist transfer location, but said conducting transactions in the parking lot of a local police station is a good idea to ensure a level of safety.

Like Manchester, the Sykesville Police Department may not be staffed at night if an officer is on patrol, but Chief Michael Spaulding said he would not be opposed to citizens using the station during the day to conduct safe exchanges.

"We would certainly allow that," he said. Spaulding recommended calling ahead to make arrangements or at least let the station know you will be there if you use their property.

Taneytown Police Chief William Tyler also said he would support any citizens who want to use the station to conduct transactions.

"We would help any of our citizens out," he said.

Tyler said his department is not aware of any issues with people meeting to complete an online sale, but if anyone wants to use the parking lot, which is public, to feel safer meeting a stranger, he's all for it.

"That's how our citizens can use our department," he said.

Tyler recommended people call ahead to schedule the meeting and let the department know so an officer can attempt to be present.

In Hampstead, Chief Ken Meekins said he could not guarantee officers would be present because, like the other town departments, shifts do not consist of a large number of officers, and if both are on a call, no one would be available to monitor the exchange.

"I would hate to have someone count on that," he said.

Information from: Carroll County Times , http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/

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