Police offer sites for safer transfers when buying, selling online

You finally found a buyer for your car, sofa or child’s old instrument, and all that’s left is making the swap.

But that next step of finding a place to meet is one police want you to think about.

In Bargersville, police were called when a man selling an iPhone in an online ad was punched in the face and had his phone stolen by the buyer. In Indianapolis, police believe a man was shot three times last year when he tried to meet a man at a vacant house to sell his iPhone.

That’s why local police departments are offering up their parking lots and lobbies to make those exchanges.

At the Edinburgh Police Department, Chief David Mann has seen residents meet up to sell a motorcycle, since they know they will be exchanging a large amount of money.

“The lot here is a safe, public lot that people in this community feel is safe,” Mann said. “Our lot is recorded with a camera and is fairly well lit.”

Police do not advertise that their parking lots and lobbies are available for trading items from Internet sales, but they do recommend it, especially after officers have been called after a sale has gone wrong.

Bargersville police officers were called to a house in Harvest Grove, where someone was selling an item and the buyer went to the seller’s house. The homeowner was punched in the face and the iPhone that was being sold was taken, Bargersville assistant chief Todd Bertram said.

Residents who have tried to purchase vehicles have been cheated out of money in the past as well, Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said. In some cases, a resident agreed to buy a car, but when the buyer saw the car, it was in terrible condition compared with what was online. Meeting at a police station would ensure that the buyer could get out of the sale without feeling threatened or having money stolen, Cox said.

When setting up the meeting, if the seller or buyer is not willing to meet at the police station, residents should see that as a warning sign, Bertram said.

“People who wanted to rob them probably wouldn’t agree to meet at the police station, so that would be a red flag,” he said.

Residents do not need to alert the police station if they want to swap something in the parking lot, but not every station will have an officer in the station around-the-clock. Officials suggest residents call to make sure an officer is around or can stop by the parking lot, officers said.

“The problem is that there’s no guarantee that there’s someone here 24 hours a day,” Franklin Lt. Kerry Atwood said.