Upper Darby cops establish 'Online Transaction Zone'

Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood has designated the Upper Darby police station as an "Online Transaction Zone" where people can feel safe meeting to exchange merchandise sold online.

CRIMES STEMMING from online transactions that require the buyer and seller to meet in person have become so ubiquitous that they've spawned online listicles like "35 Heinous Craigslist Crimes" and "10 terrifying Craigslist crimes and misdemeanors."

Now, with the holiday shopping season here, one area police department is offering its station as a trading post to conduct safe, video-monitored transactions between buyers and sellers who have met online.

If only there were such a safe zone for online dating.

Yesterday, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood announced that the department's lower lobby and the area just outside the front door of the station, on West Chester Pike near Winfield Avenue, have been deemed "Online Transaction Zones."

"The major purpose is to give the buyer and seller of online transactions a safe area in which they can feel comfortable and not have to worry about being robbed, especially when you're dealing with strangers," Chitwood said. "We're implementing it because of the season and the increase of online transactions, but it will be available seven days a week and 365 days a year."

Chitwood said those who wish to conduct transactions at the station can do so between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. any day of the week without calling ahead.

"We have been very fortunate here that we have not had any of the sensational crimes we've seen across the country, from robberies to killings," he said. "We have not had that and we don't want any of that."

One doesn't have to go too far to find the kind of crimes to which Chitwood was referring.

On Christmas Eve last year, a man who went to sell his MacBook to someone he'd met on Craigslist was beaten and robbed at a 7-Eleven store in Mayfair where he agreed to meet the buyer. And just this past July, Thomas Coffee, 25, was found guilty of murder, robbery and related offenses for shooting to death a man he'd met on Craigslist who had traveled from South Jersey to West Oak Lane to meet Coffee to buy a four-wheeler.

"In this day and age there's a lot of derelicts out there who are looking to rob and steal and pillage, and they know they can do it online," Chitwood said.

Upper Darby police aren't the first department to implement such a safe-zone program for online transactions. Departments in Lansdale, Abington and Conshohocken, among others, already have similar programs in place.

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