Calgary police are warning people to keep their wits about them when buying and selling through third-party sites after seeing a spike in thefts and robberies related to the transactions.
According to Det. Darcy Williams with the Calgary Police Service’s general investigations unit, Apple electronic devices are popular right now and an item thieves are looking to snatch from a seller.
After January 2021, Williams said there was an increase in theft incidents, as well as an increase in those incidents turning violent.
“To date, I think I checked the numbers, and we were up to somewhere near close to 90 reported incidents of either thefts or robberies in which a person lost an Apple device through a buy-or-sell meeting with an offender,” Williams said.
Williams said most incidents were snatch and runs, but in some cases, the victim was shoved or knocked the ground, kicked or punched, attacked by bear spray or threatened with a knife.
Williams said there have been several situations where “a number of red flags have come up with victims,” however, the person went to the sale meetup anyway and left as the victim of a crime.
“If at any time something doesn’t feel right, just don’t go through with it,” Williams said. “Just drive away.
“There are lots of other buyers out there that will likely buy the item. It just may not be that day.”
He said things people should be wary of include: if the agreed-upon meet location is changed last minute, the potential buyer is late or stalling and the meet locations are in areas where there are few people around to witness a possible crime.
Williams said buyers and sellers should pick meeting locations where there will be a lot of foot traffic, such as a busy parking lot, and check to see if businesses in the area have CCTV cameras, in the event something goes wrong.
“Just remember, just because the buyer set the meet location doesn’t mean you have to agree to it. You can negotiate with them,” he said.
“If they choose not to meet at that location, well then it’s probably there’s probably a good reason for that, and you’ve probably prevented yourself from becoming a victim.”
Williams advises anyone who witnesses a buy-and-sell meetup gone wrong to “be a good witness” and not put themselves in danger.
“If you happen to be in the area and you hear someone screaming for help, be cognizant of what’s happening,” he said.
“Maybe don’t get involved directly by chasing after the person but take note of what they’re wearing, what their description is, any vehicles they may be associated to, and in turn, always to report suspicious activity to the police.”
Many police stations have buy-and-sell meetup spots in their parking lots, and Williams recommended people use those because they are equipped with cameras and on-duty officers are just steps away. He added that doesn’t necessarily mean an officer can be there to supervise the transaction but it could deter criminals from being on the other end of transactions.
Williams said investigators believe the spike in thefts and robberies is “strictly a financial gain for the offenders,” adding there’s no evidence to suggest any other motive is behind the crimes. He added it’s believed “word of mouth” among a peer group has helped to spread the message that money can be made this way, leading to an increase in the targeted attacks.