Selling something on Craigslist or through a classified ad?
The Clovis Police Department has created an Exchange Zone in front of its headquarters for the public to conduct face-to-face transactions in a well-lit area under video surveillance.
One camera is focused 24-hours a day on the Exchange Zone, which is essentially two parking spots near the handicap stalls in front of police headquarters at 1233 5th Street. A second camera is set to be installed.
Clovis Police Cpl. Jared Binford, who did not come up with the project, but “gave it legs,” he said, hopes it will give residents some peace of mind when selling or purchasing items from strangers.
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“If you’re going to sell something to somebody on Craigslist, or go buy something, do you want to come to a neutral spot where you should feel safe because you’re at the police station?” he asked. “Or do you want to go somewhere that you’re unfamiliar with, or invite them over and maybe open yourself up (to potential danger)? I would say that a neutral spot is better and we hope that everybody uses it for what it’s worth. It doesn’t cost anything to come and use it, so you might as well.”
Although “it doesn’t happen as often as you might think,” Binford said, he has investigated a few reports of Craigslist or similar sales gone awry.
“If you’re selling your old iPhone because you bought a new one, and someone comes to your house to come look at it … they want to see it because of course you want to see what you’re getting before you buy it,” he explained. The next thing you know, they’re turning around and running (away with the iPhone without paying.)”
In once instance, a buyer allegedly punched the seller before making off with the goods, Binford said.
The Exchange Zone might help to alleviate those problems, Binford suggested.
“And if there is a problem, you’re at the police station, so you’ve probably got a pretty good response time,” he added.
The exchange zone is a new concept to the Western United States, with only one in Oregon and some in Colorado, Binford said.
The idea originated on the East Coast.
“City Councilmember Lynne Ashbeck was reading the Wall Street Journal and saw that they have these on the East Coast. She then asked (Clovis Police) Chief (Matt) Basgall, ‘is this something we would want to have here?’” Binford said.
The project was assigned to Binford, who also works patrol and trains new officers.
After seeking advice from other police stations across the country that have an exchange zone in place, Binford developed a plan and signage for a zone here.
“We already had the cameras and lights existing, so it only cost us the money to make the two signs and paint the curbs; that it,” he said. “It was very minimal.”
Since it was advertised on social media, Binford has seen a few cars park in the Exchange Zone, but did not observe any transactions, he said.
“There are almost 22,000 ‘likes’ (on the post about the Exchange Zone) on social media, so it’s gotten a very good response and not really anything negative,” he said.