By CHARITY B. SMITH
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE — A young woman from Lincoln Park, looking to sell her used iPhone 6 Plus placed an ad on Craigslist and shortly after had a potential buyer.
On Aug. 21 the buyer asked to meet her at a local park. She felt uncomfortable and switched the location to the CVS at 2400 Fort St. about 6:25 p.m. and chose to have a couple of friends accompany her on the transaction.
When the buyer’s vehicle approached, she still felt uncomfortable so she had her friend go talk to the male driver. The man asked to hold the phone several times, but her friend sensed something was awry and would not let him hold it.
He then asked her friend to take out the SIM card. The friend obliged and the driver snatched the phone out of her hand and sped off. In a matter of seconds the thief had stolen the phone right in front of their eyes.
Many police stations across the country have reported thefts and occasionally even rapes and murders that result from Craigslist transactions.
Although Craigslist is known for helping people buy and sell various items and services at little to no cost for their advertisements, it also has gained notoriety for scams and murders.
“It’s happened numerous times nationwide,” Melvindale Police Chief Chad Hayse said.
In recent months many people have fallen victim to Craigslist scams nationwide. According to the Aim Group, a consulting company which specializes in advertising business since 2007, there have been 83 deaths related to Craigslist since 2007.
The Melvindale Police Department has decided to try to prevent this by turning its lobby into a “Craigslist Safe Zone.” People wanting to conduct a Craigslist transaction can meet in the lobby of the Police Department and perform their transaction in front of a police officer.
“I guess we are trailblazers,” said Hayse, who picked up the idea from a police officer friend in Missiouri and decided to implement the idea here.
“It’s the safest thing to do,” Cpl. Zach Blunden said. “Not too many people are going to screw you over in the police department lobby.”
Blunden said sellers should tell buyers to meet them in the lobby. If they refuse then something is not right.”
Melvindale is the only city in the area that has officially imposed such a practice.
Chief Dan Grant of Wyandotte had not heard of such a practice but said that he thinks it’s “a great idea.”
Hayse said he would be bring up the subject at the next meeting of the Downriver Police Chiefs.
(Charity B. Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)