City Hall

Hundreds Robbed and Three Killed Making Online Deals; Now DPD Wants Safe Exchange Zones

Arlington's exchange zone.
Arlington's exchange zone. City of Arlington
Martha Teran died on Oct. 30, trying to sell an iPhone 7. According to Dallas police, she met Lonzell Hunter in the parking lot of Medieval Times just off Interstate 35, believing the public parking lot would be a safe place to exchange her phone for cash. It wasn't.

Teran's death was one of two 2016 murders over online transactions gone bad, Dallas Police Department officials said Monday, in addition to 154 robberies. So far in 2017, one more person has been killed during an online sale, and 42 more people have been robbed. It's time to do something about it, DPD brass told the Dallas City Council's Public Safety Committee on Wednesday.

Across North Texas, cities have implemented safe exchange zones for handing over cash and goods traded on online marketplaces like Craigslist and 5miles, Assistant Chief Paul Stokes and Major Paulette Richardson told the committee. If buyer and seller are unfamiliar with each other, they can head to whatever area a city's set up. Often, it could be a couple of parking spaced in a police department parking lot. Or it might be the lobby of the police unit itself or a space at the public library. Whatever it is, the area is well lit, has video surveillance cameras and signs marking off the area for civilian use.

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City of Dallas

While the exchange zones aren't a perfect solution — April Vancleave, who lives in Arlington, a city that already has a safe exchange zone, was shot and killed just before Christmas after being tailed home from a Target where she hoped to sell some jewelry — DPD wants to bring exchange zones to Dallas.

Anyone participating in a sale can sign in with police if the choose to do so, but cops wouldn't help with any transactions. Obviously, transactions involving weapons, stolen property or illegal items would not be allowed and would be incredibly stupid to do when cops are watching.

The committee unanimously recommended DPD move forward with establishing the zones in Dallas.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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