MAHOPAC, N.Y. - For Carmel and Mahopac residents, buying stuff on the internet from private individuals is about to get a little safer.
Parking spaces reserved for online transactions are being created at Carmel Town Hall/Police Headquarters, creating a safe exchange area for residents who buy and sell products online.
“We are creating an internet-purchase exchange location,” said Supervisor Ken Schmitt. “It’s a meet-up spot so the public can safely exchange purchases. It’s popular across the nation because there is a trend where people are buying items that they found online like the Marketplace on Facebook or on Craigslist where people list items for sale.”
But the exchange can sometimes be dangerous. According to reports, since 2007, more than 100 murders have been linked to postings on Craigslist. Yorktown Police Chief Robert Noble, who created a similar safe exchange space at his department’s parking lot, said there are many more instances of victims being assaulted or robbed when meeting to finalize an internet transaction.
In fact, such a robbery took place earlier this summer in Yorktown when the seller opted not to use the exchange site at police headquarters. A Yorktown man who had posted his all-terrain vehicle for sale online was robbed at gunpoint during a meeting with the “buyers,” according to the Yorktown Police Department. During their meeting, Noble said, the buyers, both men, displayed what appeared to be a handgun. One of the men drove off in the ATV while the other left in a car. The victim was uninjured, and the perpetrators were eventually caught.
“So, a lot of sellers are reluctant to have people come to their home,” Schmitt said. “They don’t know the party and whether there may be some type of criminal activity. They would rather it would be a neutral location and that’s what we are creating here at Town Hall.”
Schmitt said the Town Hall, at 60 McAlpin Ave., is a natural choice for the location because it is also the home of the police department and there are surveillance cameras all around the parking lot. He said Police Chief Mike Cazzari suggested a spot next to the 9-11 memorial because four cameras are trained on that area.
Schmitt said the safe exchange area idea was initially suggested by Councilman Mike Barile.
“I agreed with him,” Schmitt said. “I think it’s something we should do, and I picked it up from there. It’s a great initiative and I think the town residents will embrace it. I put [the idea] on Facebook, and it got a lot of attention. It’s another way where we can go one step further for people to do this safely.”
Carmel and Mahopac have not seen an incident like the one in Yorktown, Schmitt noted, but said the town doesn’t want to wait for something bad to happen.
“We are trying to be proactive,” he said. “There have been no incidents that I know about in Carmel, but you have no idea what [the buyer’s] background is and whether someone is surfing these sites and preying on people. They will show an interest and all they ask is where you live, and then unsuspecting people become the victim of a crime.”
Schmitt said that two signs will designate the Town Hall exchange area. They should be ready in about two weeks and the site will be ready by mid-August. He advised residents to take advantage.
“If you tell someone you want to do [the exchange] there and they don’t want to do it, that probably tells you that you shouldn’t do it and to just move on,” he said.