TERRELL, Texas — Area police departments are reminding citizens to use safe buying and selling practices when meeting for internet sales exchanges after a rise in thefts during such exchanges.
"Don’t become a victim of opportunity. Selling to strangers in a secluded area is a recipe for a robbery, assault or worse," Mesquite Police Department Lieutenant Stephen Biggs said earlier today.
"Two years ago, about 5% of all robberies in Mesquite were the result of thefts during the exchange of items from a sale made over the internet," he said. "In 2020, the number of thefts during internet sales exchanges is at 15% and growing."
Recently, the department arrested two individuals who were suspected of assaulting a person who thought they were meeting to buy cell phones.
"Don't sacrifice your safety for the sale" — a message the Mesquite Police Department is now spreading throughout their community. Instead, the department advises citizens to not become a victim of opportunity but, to use opportunities for a safe internet exchange.
Those opportunities, according to the department, include meeting at a safe internet exchange zone at a local police department — a place many local police departments have established in recent years to combat this exact crime.
The Forney Police Department, Terrell Police Department, and Kaufman Police Department are among the local agencies with an established safe internet exchange zone. The zones are located at their respective police department headquarter buildings and are lit and monitored by video surveillance 24/7
“The area is meant to provide a safe alternative to other meeting locations, such as private residences, shopping centers, or gas stations, and to deter potential criminal activity,” read a statement from the Forney Police Department in announcing their Exchange Zone in July 2017.
“We need our community to be aware of this crime trend. Parents need to have a talk with their kids about this subject. And, we need our young adults not to be so cavalier with meeting strangers to exchange stuff," stated Biggs.
The Mesquite Police Department also offered the following tips for online sales exchanges:
- BE SAFE. Meet in the “Exchange Zone.” It is located in the front parking lot of the Mesquite Police Department, at 777 N. Galloway Avenue. The zone is safe and provides 24-hour surveillance cameras of all activity. If you can’t meet at the “Exchange Zone”, meet in a public area during the day. And if the exchange must occur at night, choose a location that has good lighting.
- BE COMFORTABLE. If the exchange must occur at a private residence with strangers, bring a familiar face, like a friend or family member.
- BE SMART. Use smart technology. Text or call a friend about the exchange plans before and after – or even have them on speaker during the exchange as a witness. Set the location tracking feature on a smartphone. Use a transaction app for the sale or purchase. Bring only enough cash for the agreed upon price.
- BE AWARE. Listen to personal instincts and watch surroundings. Leave any situation that feels unsafe.