Amid nationwide concern about the safety of Craigslist transactions, Craigslist updated its safety page last week with a statement encouraging users to make exchanges at local police stations.
The change follows some efforts already underway in Connecticut. The Hartford Police Department launched Operation Safe Lot in late February, which involved opening up a parking lot at Hartford Police headquarters to members of the community who want to publicly and safely carry out Craigslist exchanges.
“It was worth the headache and strain for us to lose the extra parking spots temporarily if it prevents another homicide or robbery,” said Hartford Chief of Detectives Brian Foley.
Foley said the Hartford Police Department decided to launch the program after seeing an increase in the number of robberies happening during Craigslist transactions. He cited one robbery in Hartford, where a man selling two T-Mobile tablets was shot and killed.
Hartford is not the first city to open up its headquarters to Craigslist users. Last June, Boca Raton, Fla., started a similar program. Since then, the police department has partnered with police departments in other cities in south Florida to expand the program and provide more safe locations for residents to make Craigslist exchanges, said Officer Sandra Boonenberg of the Boca Raton Police Department’s Public Information Office.
Since Boca Raton started the program, there have been no reports of the Craigslist-related crimes that originally prompted the campaign for safe zones in Boca Raton. Boonenberg also said that community members have approached Chief of Police of Boca Raton Daniel Alexander on numerous occasions to tell him that they are “very pleased” with the program.
Alexander added in an email to the News that bringing residents to the police department also helps build stronger bonds between the community and the police force.
Though Hartford adopted the program recently, Foley said he and the police department have already noticed positive reactions from community members in Hartford and its surrounding regions.
Yet Foley said he has also been surprised that other police departments in Connecticut have not yet adopted a similar initiative.
“We would love for all police departments to open their doors like that, but that’s on each department,” he said.
Foley noted that every police department in the state already has their parking lots open for child custody exchanges to ensure that separated parents who may have strained relationships can safely uphold their custody agreements. Operation Safe Lot would function in a similar manner, so Foley said he does not understand why some police departments would choose to not adopt the program.
According to New Haven Police Department’s media liaison Officer David Hartman, Operation Safe Lot would not be feasible in New Haven. Hartman said the NHPD does not have its own parking lot and that officers often are forced to park several blocks away. Hartman did not comment on whether the NHPD would offer an alternative safety measure.
Laurence Grotheer, the spokesman for City Hall, said the city is aware of security concerns with some of the arrangements made on web sites such as Craigslist. He said the decision of whether or not to adopt a program like Operation Safe Lot would be up to the NHPD.
Hannah Kanech GRD ’16 said she has had good experiences exchanging furniture on Craigslist in the past, but she added that implementing a program like Operation Safe Lot in New Haven would make her feel safer about carrying out transactions on the site.
According to an analysis by news organization Law Street Media, there have been at least 45 murder victims connected to Craigslist postings since 2009.