Counteracting Craigslist creepers

Photo credit: Asher Murphy

For anyone looking to buy or sell things quickly, Craigslist is a convenient resource to use. It’s common knowledge, however, that the online classifieds website isn’t always safe when it comes to making in-person swaps with strangers.

U.S. police departments know all too well that Craigslist deals sometimes go south. In 2014, a Huffington Post article reported that at least 45 murders had occurred since 2009 because of interactions on Craigslist. In 2010 the website was linked to 105 robberies or assaults.

Over the last few years, police departments have worked to proactively make Craigslist exchanges safer through the use of Safe Trade Stations. These stations provide designated exchange locations either inside the police station or in the station’s parking lot near police cruisers.

Although many cities around the country allow online exchanges to occur on their property, more police departments should make this resource available to their citizens. Some police departments don’t discourage citizens from using police parking lots to make online exchanges, but many people don’t know that police stations can serve as a safe space for risky online transactions. Safe Trade Stations have been around for several years, but more police departments should formally advertise them to their communities.

Safe Trade Stations help discourage illicit activities that might happen at less regulated locations like private residences or Wal-Mart parking lots. Police officers are not always made available to moderate these exchanges, but the idea is that meeting on police property can help discourage instances of violent crime over Craigslist transactions. Being in a place where police would arrive in a matter of seconds, should things go wrong, allows all parties to have a greater sense of safety when participating in these exchanges.

The greatest benefit of Safe Trade Stations is the fact that they are provided to the public with minimal resources from the police. At stations where exchanges are allowed to occur in the building, buyers and sellers are usually allowed to meet in the building’s lobby or another designated space for the interaction to happen. Even though they are indoors, the exchanges are likely to happen independently of police moderation. Citizens are kept safe by the building they’re in and police officers are able to perform their duties uninterrupted.

The same holds true for Safe Trade Stations that are limited to police station parking lots. As previously stated, these exchanges occur in the parking lots where officers park their cruisers. Buyers and sellers are encouraged to meet during daylight hours, a time when officers are frequently moving through the parking lot and would be available if a dangerous situation arose.

Providing Safe Trade Stations is an excellent idea that is easy to execute. It is worth remembering that implementing strategies across an area as large as the U.S. takes time. As Craigslist continues to be a common method of selling goods over the Internet, more police stations are likely to recognize the benefit of providing trading stations in their cities. Not every Craigslist exchange ends badly, but offering this low-maintenance service to people is worth it if it stops even one Craigslist-related violent crime from occurring.

For a list of existing Safe Trade Stations in the U.S., visit