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The flaw of Hillsborough’s ‘Safe Place’

Police departments have struggled for years to alleviate the dangers that come with online shopping, and many have resorted to creating “safety zones” for users to safely exchange cash for goods.

College students often use sites such as Craigslist, eBay and campus-specific groups such as the USF Bulls Online Marketplace on Facebook to make purchases. Trying to survive off of minimum wage jobs while taking a full-time course load has caused many students to heavily rely on thrift sites.

Unfortunately, not everyone is honest online. In just the past year, Tampa has seen many cases of robbery and violence, which led to the creation of “Safe Places” — areas around the Bay designated for safe exchanges.

There are four locations in Hillsborough, all at a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Patrol District parking lot, but there is not a designated space at the location for the interactions to take place.

Dade City Police Chief Ray Velboom saw the flaw in Hillsborough and other counties’ idea and went one step further when creating a safety zone for Dade City. According to The Tampa Tribune, Velboom set aside two parking spaces in the police department’s parking lot that will have good lighting and 24-hour video surveillance.

“The reason we designated these spaces is because those are areas that would be caught on camera well,” Brian Uppercue, the department’s spokesman, told The Tampa Tribune. “If folks go to other parking lots or other police stations, they may not be picked up on surveillance.”

Hillsborough should adopt Dade City’s policy and set aside spaces for these exchanges. Knowing there is surveillance will hopefully dissuade wrongdoers from attempting to scam customers.

If they do, at least it will be caught on camera so they can easily be prosecuted.

Having safety zones will allow people to safely purchase and sell goods without having to fear being robbed or taken advantage of.

With stories such as the Georgia couple that was robbed and murdered by a Craigslist seller — along with the other 45 Craigslist-related murders since 2009 — it’s no wonder police are seeking safer methods for the transactions.

It goes without saying one should never go alone, go without a cell phone or go to an isolated location when meeting a stranger to pick up an item. Still, many of the crimes have happened in broad daylight and in a busy location.

That’s why the monitoring of safety zones is so important. Now students and all members of the community can safely meet to get cheap goods. You don’t have to worry about risking harm when purchasing a new cell phone or couch.

If someone is selling something stolen or is planning to pull a quick one on his buyer, he will not want to meet at a police station to do the exchange, especially if that area is under constant video surveillance.

Safety zones are a simple solution to a growing problem in the community. Dade City found a way to reduce the dangers that come with interacting with strangers. Hillsborough would be wise to follow in its footsteps and set aside parking spaces specifically for these types of activities to keep the general public as safe as possible.