TRENTON, NJ - The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee has passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset, Middlesex, Mercer, Hunterdon) to allow local police departments to designate safe zones where people can meet to complete sales transactions arranged on websites, such as Craigslist.
“Giving out your home address to a stranger on the internet can be very dangerous, but that’s often what people have to do in order to buy or sell something on Craigslist,” Bateman said. “You shouldn’t have to put your life in harm’s way to get a great deal on a car or a collectible. Many police departments already give local residents the option to use the station lobby or parking lot to safely complete online transactions. This needs to become a statewide practice.”
The bill allows local police to establish designated safe areas where people can meet in order to complete sales transactions for items listed on websites, such as Craigslist. Bateman’s bill would be the first New Jersey law directly addressing “Safe Exchange Zones.”
To further ensure public safety, the bill would also authorize municipal and county police departments to install a video camera for recording the safe zone whenever it is available for public use.
The bill also requires the Attorney General to establish a public awareness campaign with an updated list of police departments that have established designated safe areas, as well as safety tips for decreasing the risk of crime when engaging in internet sales transactions.
Designating safe zones would be voluntary, and local police departments would not be responsible for regulating the sales transactions, nor would they be civilly liable for crimes or offenses committed by participants to the sales transactions.
A number of safe zones have already been established by law enforcement in communities statewide, including Princeton, South Brunswick, East Brunswick, Woodland Park, Robbinsville, Hillsdale, Chester Borough, Waretown, Paulsboro, and Cherry Hill.
“Recently, a New Jersey man had to escape through a window in his own home after a Craigslist buyer held him up at gunpoint,” Bateman said. “We don’t need to ban e-commerce sites to prevent such a tragedy. Buyers and sellers should be able to use these websites safely. The least we can do is provide a public space where these transactions can be completed without turning violent.”