Let’s say you have a computer you want to sell. Or a cell phone. Or some concert tickets. Whatever it is, you decide to use Craigslist to advertise it. The only issue is when you have to meet face to face with a complete stranger to complete the deal. That can be a little unnerving, to say the least. In the past, there have been reports of armed robberies or even physical violence when it came time to make the exchange. There is a better way and it’s coming soon to San Luis Obispo County.

It’s called the Safe Exchange Zone program.  It was brought to our attention by County Supervisor John Peschong. The idea is really quite simple. The Sheriff’s Office and five police departments within the County will create a safe exchange zone in the parking lot of each agency. Those zones will be monitored by surveillance cameras at all times. That way, people can meet and sell their goods without fear of violence or being ripped off. Deputies and officers do not get involved in the transaction, but rather, just the presence of law enforcement nearby will hopefully reduce the anxiety involved in the exchange. The zone will be monitored by cameras, just in case a deal goes wrong, and will provide law enforcement with video of the transaction. Signs will be posted designating these areas as Safe Exchange Zones.

One of the best parts of the program is that it’s free to use. All you have to do is agree to meet up at the Safe Exchange Zone, make your transaction, and be on your way.

In addition to the Sheriff’s Office, the five police departments participating in the program include the San Luis Obispo Police Department, Grover Beach Police Department, Pismo Beach Police Department, Morro Bay Police Department and Arroyo Grande Police Department.  Hopefully, by the time you read this, The Safe Exchange Zone will be operating and functional at each of the law enforcement agencies mentioned.

But even though these are safer places to meet, there are still a few things to keep in mind when making a transaction in the Safe Exchange Zone. Try to meet only during daylight hours. Always tell a friend when and where you’re going. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Sellers should be alert to someone using counterfeit money or stolen and forged checks. Buyers should be aware of someone trying to sell you stolen, broken or fake items. Save listings and contact information should you need to report a problem. Always report problems to Craigslist and social media sites as well as any criminal activity to law enforcement. And if someone is refusing to meet in a Safe Exchange Zone, it’s probably not a legitimate transaction.   

As e-commerce gains in popularity, the need for Safe Exchange Zones becomes more apparent. This is just another way law enforcement is responding to the changes in how people conduct business over the internet and in person.