By The Dallas Morning News
Chances are good that you’ve bought or sold something using an online marketplace site. And you’ve probably had that queasy feeling in your gut prior to the meet-up, wondering whether the exchange with a random stranger will be safe and problem-free.
The potential for things going badly is the reason we strongly support the Dallas Police Department’s new partnership with the online marketplace app OfferUp to create the city’s first designated safety exchange zone outside a southeast Oak Cliff substation.
Clearly marked spaces outside the station at 1999 E. Camp Wisdom Road will be well lit and equipped with video cameras provided free by OfferUp. Surveillance footage will be recorded and accessible to police.
This is preventative policing at its best that can make a positive difference in communities. So we hope Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall will create more of these throughout the city.
What better place than a police substation to discourage the kind of criminal activity that has popped up around these exchanges? If folks are reluctant to meet in the shadows of law enforcement, that’s likely a sign you don’t want to do business with them.
Dozens of online buy-sell-trade sites exist, from the well-known Craigslist and Dallas-based 5miles to the newer Letgo and Oodle — and their numbers are growing. While the sites offer a quick and convenient way to buy and sell goods, the exchanges can involve dangerous individuals and robberies, some of which have turned deadly.
For example, in April, a man was sentenced to life in prison for the 2016 murder of a woman who was selling iPhones online through the OfferUp app outside Medieval Times in Dallas. In December 2016, another woman was killed in Dallas after setting up a sale of gold jewelry through the 5miles marketplace app; a man was arrested in connection with that slaying in February 2017.
In January of this year, two people were shot to death in Garland following an argument over a camera listed for sale on Offerup.
No one wants repeats of that kind of tragedy. It was past time for Dallas police to provide a safe place for transactions.
Police departments including Grand Prairie, Arlington, Fort Worth and those across the country have offered these designated spots for several years now. In Bedford, in addition to the parking spots outside, the police department welcomes the public inside the lobby to request a check of serial and/or VIN numbers to determine whether the items are stolen.
That’s next-level service. For now, we’re glad to see Dallas make a start. The Oak Cliff safety exchange location won’t stop all the people bent on wrongdoing, but it’s a step in the right direction.