People who buy and sell on online sites like Craigslist, often meet in person to see the item and pay for it. But, reports of fights, robberies and even murders across the country have law enforcement in Mississippi concerned. Rankin County Sheriff Brian Bailey says it hit close to home several weeks ago. An elderly couple was the victim of a strong-armed robbery in broad daylight. Bailey says they advertised a piece of jewelry on Craigslist and met the buyer outside a bank to sell it.
"During the transaction, the buyer said that he was going into the bank to get some money. So he walked in the bank and came back out and he said I want to look at the jewelry one more time. When they showed it to him, he snatched it out of their hand," said Bailey.
Deputies caught the man, who crashed his car trying to get away. The Sheriff knew it was time to start a program he had read about that other law enforcement agencies in the country are using, that provides "Safe Zones." People can meet in the public parking lots at the sheriff's office and local police stations to complete their online transactions. Bailey says they can use the lobby if necessary. Flowood Police Chief Richie McCluskey is on board.
"Our area like other police departments are monitored by surveillance video and of course we've got continual police traffic 24/7," said McCluskey.
John O'Hara with the Better Business Bureau supports the move and has contacted law enforcement agencies statewide. He says they will do the same thing.
"You should feel safe that you're right there in that parking lot. If someone's being hesitate, like 'Why do you want to do that?' Then you should probably figure out why don't they want to do that, because it's really protecting both the buyer and the seller," said O'Hara.
Sheriff Brian Bailey says people can let an officer know what they're doing, but law enforcement won't be involved in the transaction.