Beach police create safe zone for e-commerce exchange

The St. Augustine Beach Police Department announced to local Historic City News reporters this week that a new safe zone has been established in their parking lot for the exchange of merchandise purchased or traded online.

In a forward thinking move to deter crimes of opportunity associated with the growing demand for delivery and payment of merchandise negotiated over the Internet by everyday residents, Chief Robert Hardwick supported the designation of two shared parking spaces for that purpose that are under 24-hour video surveillance.

“Selling and buying things online can be tricky and sometimes scary because the people involved don’t know each other,” Chief Hardwick told local media. “We encourage residents to use the designated area during business hours as a neutral site.”

Hardwick made it clear that the police department is not involved in the ordinary transactions between citizens, whether completed at the location between the police department and St Augustine Beach City Hall, or not.

“If there’s a civil dispute between the buyer and seller, we won’t get involved,” Chief Hardwick said. “It is our hope that by establishing this program, we can prevent our community members from being victimized when conducting e-commerce transactions using shopping websites like Craigslist, Swip-Swap, or Amazon.”

Most resales of previously owned merchandise like firearms or used cars require you to bring cash to complete the purchase or sale; sometimes hundreds of dollars, sometimes thousands. Criminals have set up transactions anonymously online; only to entrap, rob, or assault the victim once they showed up to complete what they believe is an honest purchase or sale.

Although the “safe zone” can’t eliminate that possibility, by advertising the public location for the exchange and publicizing the video recording that is in place, it makes sense to expect criminals to think twice before making such a move knowing that the police are watching over their shoulder.

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