Robinson Police Chief Rusty Smith stands at the designated “Internet Purchase Exchange Location” outside the Robinson Police Department Wednesday afternoon. The location is under video surveillance and is equipped with an intercom system for residents to use during sales or exchanges.

Staff photo— Kristin Hoppa

Robinson Police Department took steps this month to join at least one other local agency in offering a monitored space to make exchanges arranged online.

In early March, the department established the Internet Purchase Exchange Location outside the Robinson Police Department, 111 W. Lyndale Drive, in an effort to protect area residents from scammers and dangerous situations, Robinson Police Chief Rusty Smith said.

With Craigslist classifieds and advertisements for local items on Facebook, officers saw an opportunity to become proactive in community police efforts, Smith said.

“We have not had a bad situation in Robinson that we’ve been made aware of, but we certainly hear newscasts about this happening in other places,” Smith said. “We already had a camera out there and an intercom, so all we had to do was put up a sign in hopes that we don’t ever have a situation that other cities have experienced when people have gone to exchange property and been robbed or, even worse, beaten.”

The exchange location was easily adaptable, as the Robinson Police Department has been used as a custody exchange location for parents in the past several years. No reservations are required to use the site, and members of the public are free to meet face to face to buy and sell items through online marketplaces.

The location is available 24/7, but the sale of alcohol, drugs, weapons, motor vehicles, boats or other large equipment is not permitted.

“I have bought off of Craigslist and I have gone to a person’s house. Now, I had a badge and a gun on when I went, so I didn’t feel uneasy about it, made my purchase and left,” Smith said. “The next person might not wear a badge and a gun and they might not feel the same way, so the exchange location definitely can help.”

In a similar measure of safety, the Woodway Department of Public Safety began a custody exchange location in front of its police department about 10 years ago, Director Yost Zakhary said. In the past two to three years, people also have used the location for a safe place to make purchases arranged online.

“What we want people to understand is that you need to go to a place that is not secluded. You want a lot of people or you want a place where you know someone will be there to help you,” Smith said.

For more information about the exchange location, call the Robinson Police Department at 662-0525.

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