Looking for a safe place to meet that stranger you just made a deal with on Craigslist?
Lafayette city-parish government is considering a safe-exchange location next to the Police Department on University Avenue, where people buying, selling or trading items on Craigslist or other online services can enjoy the security of making their exchange at the police station.
“If someone is dumb enough to mug you in front of the police station, the cops are right there,” said Councilwoman Liz Hebert, who proposed the idea after hearing earlier this year about a similar program in Morgan City.
Safe-exchange sites have become increasingly common to address the concerns of criminals stealing cash or goods after responding to online classified ads. Baton Rouge is among the cities in Louisiana to provide safe zones for online transactions; Denham Springs is another.
Interim Lafayette police Chief Reginald Thomas said detectives have fielded complaints in the past about criminals preying on those selling items in online transactions but generally have few leads to make a case.
“Right now, when we get a call, no one has information on anybody,” he said.
Under a proposal discussed at a Wednesday council committee meeting, a spot would be designated in a parking lot next to the Police Department where security cameras would record transactions and the license plates of the parties involved.
Thomas said anyone wishing to use the service could call the department ahead of time to arrange for a police officer to watch a live video feed of the transaction to ensure everything goes smoothly.
The safe-exchange location also could be used for child custody exchanges, Thomas said.
The chief said the Police Department will be ready to move forward with the program in about two weeks, but the issue is expected to be discussed with the full council before the safe-exchange site launches.