Online sales transactions can be a risky endeavor, especially when local exchanges are completed in person. Clinton Police Department officials know that, and are offering a venue they hope will ease minds and promote safety when items and money are changing hands.
The department has opened its parking lot to the public to provide a safe location for those who buy, sell and exchange items through Internet sites such as the Sampson County Yard Sale Facebook page, Craigslist and others. The station is located at 222 Lisbon St. in Clinton and two spaces have been assigned for that specific purpose. While the designated spaces will be under constant surveillance, police officials encourage users to meet during the daylight hours.
“It was just something I had been thinking about,” said Police Chief Donald Edwards, who attested that several of his family members conduct local online sales on a regular basis, like many others in the community. “It’s a great opportunity for us to do this right in the middle of the parking lot.”
As part of a police station expansion earlier this year that added 1,000 square feet of storage space for processing equipment and evidence, police received two cameras to monitor the interior of the building. Edwards sought to purchase a third camera at a nominal cost that could be used on the outside of the building to monitor online sales transactions for the public.
“It was just a matter of buying another to go with the system,” he said of the exterior camera.
Edwards noted that his department has investigated a handful of incidents in which fraud has been reported, or people robbed of items they intended to sell. The police chief is aware that some go to parking lots at Walmart, Food Lion and Dairy Queen to complete transactions. The police lot on Lisbon simply offers another alternative.
“We wanted to have something central,” Edwards said. “They know there is a camera on this one. We’ve designated spots and making sure we keep it open. We will have those painted and we are working on improving the lighting.”
After announcing the designated space on its Facebook page Thursday afternoon, the department reached some 50,000 people within the first 24 hours and was flooded with universal praise for the idea. An administrator of the Sampson County Yard Sale offered her gratitude on behalf of those who utilize the page, while others similarly expressed their thanks for the idea.
“Excellent move,” said one person who commented on the department’s post. “Thanks to the Clinton PD for making the public safer.”
“This is a great service to the community,” wrote another.
Edwards said the ultimate goal is offering another service to the community, while also making a move that could thwart any potential crime before it occurs. He was blown away by the positive outpouring when a photo of the installed sign was posted on the department’s Facebook page.
“I was very pleased with the response. The public is receptive to it and I want them to use it,” the chief said. “If they still want to meet at Walmart or wherever else, that’s fine too as long as they feel safe. That’s the biggest thing.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.