Two people have been arrested in connection with what police in Edmonton say is a string of violent robberies connected to the use of online classified ads.
“The Edmonton Police Service is alerting citizens to a reported series of violent robberies and carjackings occurring primarily at online buy-and-sell meetups,” police said in a news release on Thursday.
“Since Oct. 8, police have responded to nine reports of meetups that ended in robberies or carjackings, the majority of which have occurred in the last two weeks.”
According to police, in some cases, the suspects have responded to sellers’ ads on letgo.com, arranged to meet to buy items being sold and then threatened sellers with a gun or spraying them with pepper spray before robbing them of the item(s) they were trying to sell.
“In one instance that occurred on Dec. 3, at approximately 1 p.m., a seller who was trying to sell a vehicle arranged to meet the suspects at his home in the Baturyn neighbourhood,” police said.
“After being given the keys for a test drive, the two male suspects stole the vehicle, dragging the seller for approximately 150 metres.”
Police said the seller who was dragged in Tuesday’s incident was not hurt.
In other cases, police said the suspects posed as sellers and then robbed potential buyers at prearranged meetup locations.
Two people have been arrested in connection with some of the crimes.
A 17-year-old boy has been charged with five counts of robbery with a weapon, two counts of possession of a dangerous weapon and with breach of recognizance. The accused cannot be named as per provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
A second person has also been arrested and police said charges against them are pending.
Police said they believe a group of teens that are operating in groups of two or more are responsible for many of these robberies.
“We want to remind citizens to use caution when meeting up with strangers. Arrange to meet in a safe, visible and public location — not at your home or in your vehicle — and bring another person with you,” said Det. Calvin Mah with EPS Northeast Division.
“We also recommend that if the person has a profile photo, ask if they are the person depicted in that image, or ask for a photo or description. If the person who shows up at the meeting point does not match the person depicted, leave immediately.
“Above all, pay attention to your instincts. If something feels off at any point, abandon the sale.”
For more information on how to stay safe while using online classified sites, click here.
Anyone with information about these crimes or the suspects is asked to contact the EPS at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.
Watch below: (From February 2016) Buying and selling things online is how many people find bargains. But as Kendra Slugoski reports, police say online bargain hunters need to take steps to shop safely.