Denham Springs offers its police station as a safe place to carry out Craigslist transactions _lowres

Photo provided by GoogleMaps -- Denham Springs City Police Department

The Denham Springs mayor Wednesday invited the public to complete their Craigslist or other person-to-person sales at the city police building, an attempt to keep the transactions safe.

Buyers and sellers who meet online have been victims of robbery, assault and murder during transactions, Gerard Landry said. Those crimes haven’t been reported in Denham Springs, the mayor continued, though several such cases have occurred in south Louisiana in the recent past.

In May, two men met in Ascension Parish to sell a gun when the supposed buyer turned the weapon on the seller and demanded his money.

Landry said the police station will offer a well-lit, video-surveilled and constantly staffed site for people to conduct their business where they can feel safe. The public is welcome to use the lobby and parking lot, both of which are open 24 hours a day. The station is located at 447 Lamm St.

Several divorced couples already exchange child custody there, Police Chief Scott Jones said.

A suspicious shopper may ask to meet at the station, as a peddler of stolen goods may be deterred from unloading the merchandise right under an officer’s nose, the chief continued. Jones said people frequently find their stolen items turn up on Craigslist, and police in Lafayette have investigated an entire fleet of stolen trucks that wound up on the site.

However, both the chief and mayor emphasized that officers are only providing a safe environment. They won’t mediate deals or involve themselves in the sale.

Landry said he got the idea for the city’s Safe Transaction Initiative after hearing about similar programs in other cities.

“It’s not that uncommon,” he said.

It may be a relatively new idea in Louisiana, though. Fabian Blache, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police, said he had never heard of such a program.

The idea sounds like a good idea for smaller police departments, Blache said, but he doubts it will take off in metropolitan agencies, where there’s “too much action.”

Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.