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Edmonton police launch ‘safe exchange zone’ for online purchases

Edmonton police create safe space for online purchases
WATCH: Edmonton has a huge buy-and-sell community. Now, police have launched a new pilot program to give buyers and sellers some peace of mind when they meet. Nicole Stillger reports.

If you buy or sell items online, the Edmonton Police Service now has a safe place for people to meet to conduct their exchange.

A “safe exchange zone” has been set up in the parking lot of EPS Southwest Division in Windermere. Two parking stalls have been designated safe zones to provide extra security for those doing face-to-face interactions involving items posted for sale online.

READ MORE: Police warn Edmontonians about violent robberies related to online classified ads

The parking lot is monitored 24/7 by surveillance cameras.

EPS cyber crimes on launch of ‘safe exchange zone’ for online purchases
EPS cyber crimes on launch of ‘safe exchange zone’ for online purchases

The move to designate the stalls comes after an increase in crime related to online purchases. Last year, the EPS made 77 arrests and laid 218 charges in relation to the face-to-face buying and selling of online items, according to police.

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Those investigations led to the recovery of $170,000 in stolen property, police said.

“Obviously there’s a need for this type of initiative,” EPS Det. Michael Walkom said.

READ MORE: Edmonton police warn of ‘bad guys’ on the other end of Kijiji, Craigslist deals

Walkom stressed that officers will not be present to help people with negotiations of their sales.

“The safe exchange zone at Southwest Division is 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.”

Similar safe zones are already in place at police stations in cities throughout Canada, including to the east of Edmonton in Strathcona County.

A safe internet exchange zone in Strathcona County Thursday, March 5, 2020.
A safe internet exchange zone in Strathcona County Thursday, March 5, 2020. Charles Taylor, Global News

EPS Southwest Division is located at 1351 Windermere Way. The safe exchange zone is located in the northwest public parking lot.

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Police said the stalls will be open 24/7 but encourage people to use them during daytime hours.

The safe exchange zone parking stalls will be tested through a pilot project over the next several months, then reviewed. If successful, the safe zones could be set up at other EPS stations throughout the city, police said in a media release Wednesday.

Buy and sell website warning
Buy and sell website warning

The EPS provided the following tips for people buying and selling items online:

  • Do not meet in a secluded place or invite strangers into your home
  • Have someone come with you when you meet. If you cannot arrange for someone to come with you, let friends or family know where you are going, what time you’re meeting and all the details about who you are meeting. Let your contact know that everything is OK
  • Ask the buyer for photo ID. Take a photo of it for your reference
  • Buying or selling a vehicle? Offer to meet at an automotive garage where the vehicle’s quality can be assured, instead of offering a test drive
  • Do not disclose to the seller how you will be paying if it’s not necessary. If the seller is aware that you will be arriving with a large quantity of cash, it is an excellent opportunity for a personal robbery to take place
  • Obtain a bill of sale and verify the seller’s identity through photo ID. Inform the seller that you want this before meeting, this will deter those selling illegitimate property from selling the property
  • Ask the seller why they are selling the property
  • For buyers and sellers: Take screenshots of the advertisements, the advertisement ID number, the seller’s contact information and all communications
  • If you turn a blind eye to obvious clues that the property is stolen but buy it anyway, you can be found to be willfully blind to the fact that the property is stolen and you may be criminally charged
  • If you locate property being sold that you believe to be stolen, report it to police