Two Internet Purchase Exchange Zones are in place in the Grove City area to help reduce the chance residents get into something they didn't bargain for when meeting someone to complete a transaction arranged online.
The Grove City Division of Police in cooperation with Jackson Township have established the zones at City Hall, 4035 Broadway, and the township administration building, 3756 Hoover Road.
"The zones give people a safe, secure place where they can meet someone and know their interaction is going to be recorded," said Tom Durflinger, Grove City's crime prevention coordinator. "They offer them extra protection."
Residents are encouraged to set up any person-to-person meeting at one of the exchange-zone locations, he said.
"Bad guys don't like to operate in an area where they are under surveillance," Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said. "Using one of the exchange zones is a good safety strategy our residents can take."
"Different types of things can happen if you're not careful," Durflinger said. "People end up getting robbed, or the perpetrator brings a higher-priced item to sell than they advertised and demands you pay the full price."
Setting up a meeting in a secluded location that is not a public place could turn out even worse, he said.
Kyle Haseley, 25, of Powell, died March 12, six days after he was shot and robbed in the South Linden area after arranging to pay for a video-game system he purchased through social media, according to Columbus police reports.
"That's the ultimate example of what can happen," Durflinger said.
"Unfortunately, these days, you have to be careful and not assume that you can trust someone."
Grove City does not keep a tally of the number of reports it receives of crimes related to transactions made online, but "we do get our share," Durflinger said.
The exchange zones at the township and city buildings are identified by signs placed next to designated parking spaces and have video surveillance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he said. The cameras were already in place at both buildings, making them obvious choices for the exchange zones, Durflinger said. There are a number of common sense tips residents should keep in mind if they opt to arrange a purchase through social media, Durflinger said.
"First and foremost, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't (true)," he said.
Meetings should be set up to occur at well-lit locations where lots of people gather, Durflinger said.
"And you should always have situational awareness and be aware of your surroundings," he said.