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Police create 'safe zones' to prevent Craigslist deals from going bad

Police departments are creating "safe zones" nationwide to help online sellers and buyers complete their transactions securely.
/ Source: TODAY

Following a string of crimes involving victims killed after responding to Craigslist ads, a growing number of police departments are creating “safe zones” nationwide to help online sellers and buyers complete their transactions in a secure environment.

In Woodstock, Georgia, potential users of Craigslist and other online classified services are being asked to take their business deals to the local police precinct lobby.

“Typically a bad guy doesn't want to transact bad business in a police department," Woodstock Police Chief Calvin Moss told TODAY.

People must first call ahead to make sure an officer will be available, but Moss said he doesn't expect the service to require additional manpower from his department.

“The Transaction Safe Place initiative really is about moving those transactions away from that secluded area where they often occur and bringing it here to a very public place,” he said.

Last week, James Jones Jr., a 21-year-old college student in Georgia, was robbed and killed after responding to an ad for an iPhone 6. And last month, a Georgia couple was found shot to death after they drove to a secluded area to buy a vintage car listed on Craigslist.

Creating safe zones to finalize online sales has become a growing trend in policing. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office in south Florida launched its “safe spot” program last summer.

“No matter what your profit is or no matter what that product is that you may want to have, it's not worth getting hurt,” said Broward Sheriff Scott Israel.

Craigslist did not respond to a request for comment but on its website’s safety page, the company encouraged site users to convene their transactions at “a public meeting place,” as well as “tell a friend or family member” where they plan to meet.

Follow writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.