You can find some great deals on bargain automobiles on Craigslist. However, recent stories about buyers and sellers being robbed or even killed illustrates the risk you take when dealing with an online stranger. Some police departments are responding by allocating a portion of their parking lot to ensure a safe sale.
According to NPR, Craigslist has updated its "safety" page to encourage buyers and sellers to, "Consider making high-value exchanges at your local police station." Across the country several Police departments are creating "safe lots" near their headquarters. These areas are well-lit, usually under video surveillance, and have police officers coming and going. It is a great way to discourage criminals from targeting people on Craigslist.
The Hartford Connecticut Police Department set up their "safe lot" in response to a spike in crime that has been connected to Craigslist transactions. The officers don't seem to mind working around different folks coming and going, selling autos, furniture, or other goods.
"If it's gonna prevent a robbery, if it's gonna prevent a homicide, if it's gonna make our citizens feel safe...We can live with it...We don't want it to become a flea market out there, but certainly it hasn't been a problem." - Chief of Detectives Brian Foley
Boca Raton Police Chief Daniel Alexander says that the "safe lots" provide more than just a secure area to perform transactions; these places also foster positive interactions with the local police department. Often people come to the station under negative circumstances, the safe lots send the message that law enforcement is out to serve the community and prevent crime, rather than just write tickets and make arrests.
Hartford resident Mike Lion says that Craigslist should do more to encourage this type of transaction and that they should branch out to include smaller, less valuable items.
"I think it would open it up for a bigger customer base...Especially for someone who may be a mother or a woman who may not feel as comfortable selling or buying a product that way."
Whether you complete your Craigslist deal at your local police station or elsewhere, it is important to meet in a public place, take every precaution you can, and trust your instincts.
If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at AutomatchConsulting@gmail.com and be sure to include your Kinja handle.