Regional

Local police designating 'safe exchange zones' for online purchases

You may think that everyone has good intentions when attempting to buy or sell items online, but that is not always the case. Just a couple of weeks ago, a man in Tampa was murdered when those answering an ad to purchase a dirt bike shot and killed him and stole the bike.

Some police agencies in our area are taking note of the dangers, and they are taking steps to prevent crime related to sales on the internet.

There is now police surveillance for two parking spots in the Bristol, Tennessee Anderson Street city parking lot that operate 24 hours a day.

"We have two cameras that we bought specifically to monitor those two parking spots," Patrol Captain Charlie Thomas said.

The spots are designated as safe exchange zones for people meeting in conjunction with shopping or selling online, for parents meeting for custody arrangements, and for other needs for safe meetings.

"We've even had people say if I meet someone on match.com, I'm going to come down to the safe exchange zone," Thomas said.

The idea is the open space is in close proximity to the police department, which hopefully will deter crime when you are meeting a stranger or encounter danger. Thomas told me he suggested the idea after seeing it in other areas.

News 5 also spoke with Tenille Montgomery at the Abingdon Police Department, which made its parking lot a safe exchange zone just over a year ago. She told me they have seen a lot of use.

"It keeps people from meeting at their homes or places that may not be well-lit, of course there's a lot of traffic down Main Street here," Montgomery said.

She said the police lot is mostly used evenings and weekends.

"People can meet face-to-face, and people won't find out where you live or any other personal spaces you may use as far as a church or any place you may shop or anything of that nature," Montgomery said.

These spaces are available all day and all night. Bristol, Tennessee police told us if the two designated spots are taken, surrounding parking spots are also covered by surveillance cameras.


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