The Avon, Colorado, Police Department has created special meetup spots outside of its building to provide community members with a safe place to conduct internet purchase exchanges.
The department has placed two signs — one in the parking lot of the station and the other in the lobby — to designate secure community meetup locations for completing transactions over internet purchases. The signs were donated by OfferUp, an online marketplace that connects people with local buyers and sellers.
Avon Police Officer Andy Sandoval said the safe zones offer different elements of security for community members. He notes that the sign outside the department designates an area that is accessible 24/7 and is monitored by video surveillance. People don’t need to let police officers know they are meeting there to make a transaction.
“But, if you’d like an officer to walk out and help facilitate, we are more than happy to do that,” Sandoval said, adding that officers who help facilitate transactions outside the station will have their body cameras turned on for the exchange.
For transactions taking place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., members of the public can also make use of the indoor safe zones in the department’s lobby or interview room. Both of these spots offer video and audio surveillance to monitor transactions.
Sandoval hopes the meetup areas will discourage fraud and allow officers to stop fraudulent activity in the act.
“We get so many fraudulent (transactions), you have no idea — it’s insane,” Sandoval said, encouraging people who make online purchases to use police services to validate the legitimacy of their transactions.
“That’s why we’re here,” Sandoval said. “People typically think we’re here to arrest people or you know, pull people over, but really, we’re here to serve our community. So, if our community needs help verifying if something is fraudulent, let us know. We could even look it up for you and verify if it’s legit or not.”
Sandoval also advised double-checking the legitimacy of a transaction beforehand to prevent fraud. He cited a rise in people unknowingly driving with fictitious license plates they had purchased from an online seller.
“I know that we’ve had a lot of that here lately in the community, where people are selling fake plates to people who think they’re legitimate plates,” Sandoval said. “If you’re caught driving one of those, it’s a charge even if you don’t know, unfortunately. It’s always good to prevent people from getting in trouble that don’t really deserve it. So, if we can help with that, that’d be awesome.”
Sandoval encouraged the public to always make exchanges in well-lit areas with video cameras nearby. “And if at any point when they’re facilitating it, if it feels like, you know, it might be fraudulent, give (Avon Police Department) a call and we’d be more than happy to respond and help out with that,” he said.
Sandoval also recommended that buyers research sellers and view their profile to verify that they are legitimate. “Sometimes, we have fraudulent sellers who create fake Facebook accounts and they have no friends, no photos, they just create one to sell an item and once they sell the item, they sort of delete it and we just don’t have any leads on that,” he explained.
Sandoval further advised verifying a seller via a FaceTime video call before committing to an exchange.
“(If people) happen to be in a different agency’s (jurisdiction), different town, different county and they want to make sure what they’re doing is legit, they’re more than welcome to come here to the Avon Police Department, you know, our community isn’t just Avon,” Sandoval said. “Our community is the people here in the United States. We serve anyone, so whoever is here and they need help, just let us know and we could facilitate that.”