D.C. police made three of its stations available Thursday for people who need to meet to complete transactions involving goods bought and sold over the Internet.
The idea is to provide a safe place for strangers to conduct business that most often involves cash — and which led to buyers or sellers being unwittingly lured into a robbery more than 50 times in the past year. Several involved guns, police said, and in one, a person’s vehicle was stolen in a carjacking.
“A lot of people are showing up in dark areas of the city and at night,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said in announcing the safe havens Thursday. The purported exchanges “sometimes are turning into robberies,” she said.
Lanier said that detectives have made arrests in 28 of the robberies linked to transactions negotiated on Internet sites such as Craigslist and several others. She noted that such cases tend to close quickly because the assailant has left some sort of a digital trail.
“People think they are anonymous when they’re doing these transactions and they’re really not,” Lanier said.
Police selected the following three locations to accommodate transactions: Third District station at 1620 V St. NW; Sixth District station at 5002 Hayes St. NE; and the Harbor Unit at 550 Water St. SW. Business can be done between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Lanier said they chose stations that are typically quieter than other spots and are strategically placed to be near most areas of the District. Police noted that these are but one option for people wary about meeting strangers from the Internet. They typically recommend public spots during daylight hours.
The police chief did caution that officers in the stations will not mediate between sellers and buyers, and will not stand guard during a transaction. But there tends to be a steady flow of armed officers in and out of the stations, and the front desks are staffed at all times.
“Police are not getting involved in disputes or complaints about what you bought,” Lanier said.