Safer sales?

LBPD exchange zones offer secure locations for online shoppers to meet

Denny Cristales | Signal Tribune
The Long Beach Police Department is using its substations at its north, east and west offices as “e-commerce exchange zones” for online shoppers who need a safe place to meet. Pictured here is the east substation.

The advent of online shopping has allowed services, such as Craigslist and OfferUp, to thrive in the digital market. However, the occasional need to meet a stranger to finalize transactions and collect items has opened up a world of vulnerability to violence and theft for unsuspecting shoppers dealing with shifty individuals.

Those anxious at the idea of utilizing such online services may now acquire some peace of mind with the Long Beach Police Department’s (LBPD) introduction of exchange zones throughout the city.

The LBPD announced that it will use its three substations for online buyers or sellers who need a safe location to meet, according to the department’s Facebook post on June 30. The north, west and east police station public parking lots now serve as “e-commerce exchange zones.”

The department on Broadway does not have an exchange zone because its parking is within a structure, said LBPD Lt. Joseph Gaynor.

Gaynor is in charge of property sections, which includes theft-related crimes. He said he got the idea to pitch the program by observing other departments, such as the Los Angeles Police Department and the Buena Park Police Department, that offer similar services.

“Anytime you have an online purchase when you’re meeting someone in person, you don’t know who this person is,” Gaynor said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “It’s not like you’re going to a grocery store where there’s employees. We didn’t have another motive for it other than, ‘Hey, it’s another preventative tool.’ We can solve and prevent one more crime from occurring, and that’s great.”

Signs are located at the three substations to identify the areas as exchange zones. Gaynor said the cost to purchase and install the signs was minimal.

He said no appointments are necessary for exchanges, and the space is in a public zone that is under camera surveillance. There is no officer present during the process.

Gaynor said there is no way to determine how frequent the exchange zones have been utilized, but he said many residents took to Facebook to praise the LBPD for its program.

“This is a great service being provided,” wrote Long Beach resident Andrew Wilson on the LBPD’s Facebook page. “Thank you, LBPD.”

Robert Serrano, another Long Beach resident, wrote, “Way to go, Long Beach PD. Awesome idea.”

The Signal Tribune reached out to individuals on Facebook for further comment but did not receive a response.

Gaynor added that there have been no recent increases or decreases in crime trends that contributed to the introduction of the program. The sole intention was to provide another secure resource for the city and prevent any potential crimes.

“We just wanted to encourage people to use a place that would be well lit and easily accessible,” Gaynor said. “If you tell a potential suspect that you wanted to meet them at a police station, that suspect is probably not going to agree to meet there, and then you maybe prevented a crime from occurring. And that’s the idea behind the program.”

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