SPARTA, NJ – Sparta Township now has a Safe Exchange Zone, Township Manager Bill Close announced at the council meeting on Monday night.   

Two parking spots in the lower municipal parking lot adjacent to the gas pumps have been established as a safe area where people can meet to exchange goods purchased online or in newspapers, or even transfer children when there is a custody issue.

The zone is indicated by a sign, is well lit and “has two cameras that are monitored 24-seven by police dispatch,” said Close.

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The idea was discussed months ago at a council meeting. Close said he wanted to wait until township policy and equipment were in place.

There have been many incidents in other towns of people being robbed at such exchanges. Recently, a man from Mount Olive was arrested after robbing a man in a parking lot in Totowa after arranging to meet to buy an iPhone on Craigslist.

Safe Exchange Zones are popping up all over as Internet sales become increasingly more common. In New Jersey, they can be found in Byram, Blairstown, Denville, Livingston, Hillsdale, Robbinsville, Bordentown Township, Woodland Park, Hillsdale, Chester Borough, Paulsoro, Cherry Hill, West Orange, Linden, East Brunswick, Ocean Township, Freehold, Evesham and other locations.

The initiative is not limited to New Jersey. They have been set up in towns as varied as Boca Raton, Fla.; East Chicago, Illinois; Virginia Beach; Dayton, Ohi;o and even the University of Colorado in Boulder, to name a few.