Layton PD sets up ‘Safe Exchange Zone’ for completing online transactions, other meetings

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LAYTON, Utah -- Buying and selling things online through sites like Craigslist is pretty common, but, according to police, it’s also pretty dangerous.

That’s why cities here in Utah are creating safe zones for the public to do business.

“You don’t know who they’re meeting. They’re total strangers, usually,” said Lt. Travis Lyman of the Layton Police Department.

Earlier this week, two parking spots outside the Layton Police Department were painted over and designated a “Safe Exchange Zone.”

Within view of surveillance cameras, the spots are intended to be used by people who are meeting up for an online sale, or even for couples who are involved in custody agreements and want a public place to pick up their children.

“I suspect people would be on their best behavior in those circumstances,” Lyman said. “If somebody had the intent to commit a robbery or an assault, I would expect if you suggested or demanded that you meet here they wouldn’t be willing to do that.”

It’s an idea that has proven helpful in other cities, such as Sandy, which implemented a safe zone in September.

“I actually used this site shortly after we put up the signs,” said Captain Justin Chapman of the Sandy Police Department.

Surveillance cameras caught Chapman running out to a seller he met online and making his purchase in a car in the safe zone.

“He’s like, ‘Oh, good, I was kind of nervous. I’m glad you’re a cop, for one, and I’m glad we’re meeting where we’re meeting,’” explained Chapman.

While neither Layton nor Sandy have caught any crimes committed on camera, both departments believe the zone is likely preventing them from occurring elsewhere.

“I think we all have a little bit of that anxiety when you meet a stranger, when you don’t know the specifics,” Chapman said. “Who is that person? What’s their real intent? When you have a location like this, it gives you a little sense of comfort.”

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