LUMBERTON — The Lumberton Police Department will soon provide a place where people looking to purchase a secondhand couch or microwave through online sites like Craigslist can do so with peace of mind that they will not walk into a trap.
A designated safe zone in the Police Department’s parking lot is intended for residents selling, buying or trading items via the online classifieds site or other networks like Facebook who want to meet a stranger at the other end of the deal in a public place.
“It provides a safe zone for someone to transact purchases or trades that they may have made on the Internet,” said Lumberton Mayor Bruce Davis. “This way they can go to the Police Department parking lot designated as a safe place. A lot of people asked for it and we brought it to the city.”
Maj. Tommy Barnes said two parking spots in the lot, near Summit Avenue, will be marked with signs designating them as an “Internet purchase exchange location” to “be kind of a safe haven for people to make the swap” so they don’t have to meet a stranger alone, go into a stranger’s home or give out their address over the Internet. The parking lot is under constant video surveillance.
Craiglist’s safety policy suggests that when meeting someone from that site for the first time, meet them in a public place, be careful buying or selling high-value items, and have a friend accompany you to the trade. More than 60 million Americans use Craigslist each month to find everything from jobs to apartments and furniture.
The idea came from Councilman Burnis Wilkins, who says the plan has been in the works for about three months.
“I have actually seen it in my travels, and I have seen a couple of other cities with these at their police department,” said Wilkins. “I have also been contacted on Facebook by several people and have been working on it since then.”
The city’s safe zone puts Lumberton in the company of a growing number of communities across the nation, the closest registered site being in Laurinburg at the Scotland County Sheriff’s Department. More safe zones can be found at the website, safedeal.zone.
Wilkins hopes that many people all across the county, and not just in Lumberton, will use the safe zone.
“It’s not just for Lumberton residents,” he said. “Anyone in the county could use it.”