SLO Co. Sheriff's Office creates 'Safe Exchange Zone' for online marketplace transactions

Cameras monitor designated location 24 hours a day

SLO Co Sheriffs Office creates Safe Exchange Zone for online marketplace transactions

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Using online marketplace websites has become a little bit safer in San Luis Obispo County.

On Friday morning, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office debuted a new "Safe Exchange Zone," in the front parking lot near the main entrance on Kansas Ave.

"People who buy and sell online are able to come and have a place where they can exchange their goods without fear of violence or being ripped off," said SLO Co. Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Specialist Grace Norris. "They can come here where it's monitored and they can exchange their goods."

Millions of Americans regularly buy and sell goods on sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

The vast majority of transactions that originate online are completed without incident.

However, there are some cases where issues can happen during transactions, including crime.

To help deter crime and other negative incidents from happening, First District Supervisor John Peschong asked the County to look into the idea of creating the safe zone.

"It is implemented in other areas," Norris said. "Although we haven't had a lot of reported issues, we want to be proactive and give residents an opportunity to have these safe exchanges without fear."

Once it was approved, the "Safe Exchange Zone," was created at the Sheriff's Office. It includes signage for two designated parking spots and a surveillance system installed high-above under a street light.

"This adds that extra layer of security," said Norris. "If people are not willing to meet with you here, it may be mean that the transaction, they don't have legitimate intentions behind it."

The surveillance system includes four different cameras mounted at different areas, providing a birds-eye view of the entire surrounding area. 

People who choose to use the zones will still complete the transaction by themselves with the buyer or seller.

"Deputies and officers won't become involved in the transaction, unless something does occur, in which case, they're able to review the video that they'll have because it is being monitored," said Norris.

In addition to the Sheriff's Office, several other county police departments are also establishing Safe Exchange Zones, including in San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande.

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