Police create zones for safe places to complete online sales

By Erika Wurst for Chronicle Media

The Aurora Police Department has four parking spots, well lit and under surveillance, where people can meet for online transactions. (Photo by Erika Wurst / for Chronicle Media)

In an effort to curb assaults, robberies and rip-offs, local police departments are encouraging citizens who are buying and selling merchandise online to conduct their business in police station parking lots.

The Aurora Police Department recently designated four parking spots in its parking lot for online transactions to occur. The spots are well lit and under surveillance to assure purchasers and sellers alike that no funny business will occur during the exchange.

“Like most cities, we’ve investigated frequent crimes stemming from people doing transactions over the internet or using social media apps,” said Aurora Police Department spokesman Dan Ferrelli. He noted cell phone thefts seem to be the most common.

“They meet a potential customer via the internet, they agree on a meeting location, and when the other party arrives, they become victims of crime including theft, robbery and assaults,” Ferrelli warned.

Conducting transactions in the safety of a police department parking lot will lessen the risks of becoming a victim.

Yorkville Police Chief Rich Hart said his department has had a similar program in place for several years. Signs posted in the department’s parking lot designate the area as a safe place for internet transactions and sales. Video recording captures each transaction, and officers are on scene if anything goes awry.

The city has seen a few instances of sales/purchases that have ended in robberies or assaults, Hart said. Generally these instances occur in gas station, restaurant or store parking lots.

“With internet usage evolving, society is changing and we’re trying to keep up with it. In the past, we didn’t have problems with this too much, but these things are starting to happen more frequently,” Hart said.

Police caution buyers and sellers to use their best judgement when setting-up online sales.

Yorkville police, which has designated safe zones for online transactions, said the city has seen a few cases of sales and purchases that have ended in robberies or assaults and most of those were in commercial parking lots. (Photo by Erika Wurst / for Chronicle Media)

“I always tell people, if the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, listen to them,” he said. “If something doesn’t seem right, don’t do it. If you’re dealing with a legit person, they won’t mind meeting at a police station or a court house. In fact, they’d probably prefer it.”

Oswego Police Chief Jeff Burgner said his village hasn’t seen an uptick in crime regarding online sales and purchases, but that his department plans to instate a  program similar to Aurora and Yorkville’s to keep crime curbed.

While the department’s current station isn’t labeled as a designated transaction spot, Burgner is taking steps to change that.

When the department’s new police station opens soon, signs will be posted and video cameras will help residents safely conduct sales.

“I definitely see the value in offering something like this,” Burgner said. “I fully believe that a transaction happening at a police department would be safer than it happening anywhere else.”

According to Ferrelli, departments including Plano, Plainfield and Elgin are each designated exchange spots, and many departments are starting to take heed.

“From the comments we received about our program, we’re really hopeful we can cut down on these times of crimes and less people will be victimized,” he said.


Tips for reducing your chances of becoming a victim include:

– Bring someone along to the transaction

– Make sure family or friend is aware of transaction details

– Meet somewhere public and during daylight hours

– Do not go into someone’s home or allow someone into yours

– Trust your instincts, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is



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