Edmonton police provide safe zone for online buyers and sellers to complete transactions
'Obviously, there's a need for this type of initiative'
Edmonton police are offering a safe exchange zone at the southwest division station to give citizens a safe place to meet others when selling or purchasing items online.
The zone is part of a pilot program launched to provide a safe space for buyers and sellers of online goods to meet, in response to a growing number of reports of criminal activity in such transactions, said Det. Michael Walkom with the Cyber Crime Investigations Unit.
"[It's] intended to provide citizens with a safe alternative to placing themselves in potentially vulnerable positions when meeting someone for the first time regarding the sale or purchase of items listed online," Walkom said Thursday.
Last year nearly one robbery a week was occurring with this type of transaction, he said.
"They're happening in the middle of the day; they're happening in parks, malls, shops, parking lots," Walkom said. "They're very violent in nature. We have people getting attacked with bear spray, knives, threats of firearms, physical violence, blunt instruments."
Last year city police made 77 arrests and laid 218 charges in relation to face-to-face buying and selling of items listed online, he said.
"Our investigations led to the recovery of $170,000 in stolen property and 64 arrest warrants being executed, not to mention numerous incidents of violent offences including personal robberies facilitated through these face-to-face exchanges.
"So obviously, there's a need for this type of initiative," Walkom said. "If this test pilot is successful at southwest division, we could see the expansion of these safe exchange zones to other police stations across the city."
This program has been used in other cities with success, he added.
"Quite well used, people feel comfortable using them, and very, very few incidents happening at any of them, if any."
Spaces monitored by cameras
Signs indicating the zone have been placed over two parking spots at the public parking lot at the northwest side of the police station division.
Southwest division is at 1351 Windermere Way SW.
The parking spaces will be monitored by video cameras 24/7.
"If I was somebody who was trying to sell stolen property or wanted to rob somebody, I'm sure not going to do it in front of a police station," Walkom said.
Walkom warns users that neither staff or officers will involve themselves in transactions.
He encourages citizens to use the safe exchange zone during daylight hours. The station is open Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A phone that connects users with 911 can be accessed inside the vestibule of the station's main entrance, should anyone need to report a crime, Walkom said.