The Hawkesbury Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment has set up a “community safe zone” in which people can agree to meet and swap items bought online. Set up in two spaces in the detachment’s front parking lot, the zone is well-lit and has nearby cameras to give buyers or sellers peace of mind.
Hawkesbury OPP Constable Mario Gratton said police would not get involved in the trades, nor would appointments be needed. Instead, the “Project Safe Trade” area was intended as an alternative pick-up or drop-off point to a house or secluded area.
“If it’s a stranger you’ve spoken to online, you don’t know who’s coming,” he said. “It’s better to go to a public place to meet. Our space is not secluded, it’s on a main road and it’s lit at all times.”
A community safe zone had been set up in the parking lot of the detachment’s old building since last year. The detachment and Hawkesbury Police Services Board officially launched the new spaces on Friday, ahead of Ontario’s Crime Prevention Week.
Constable Gratton said the space helped reassure buyers that their online purchases had not been stolen. While a specific incident had not prompted the creation of the local spaces, he said few people who had been scammed in online or phone transactions came forward.
“There are many more victims out there than is being reported,” he said. “For some of them it may be due to shame, and they expect people will think they should know it’s probably fake.”
As well as using a busy public meeting place, police also recommended that buyers or sellers bring a trusted friend or family member along as a witness, make the transactions during daylight hours, and keep all records of the emails, texts and voicemails left by the other person.
The spaces are located in the front parking lot of the Hawkesbury OPP detachment facility at 1425 Cameron Street, Hawkesbury.