PARIS — The Police Department is providing its property on Church Street as a safe trading zone for sellers and buyers on websites such as Craigslist or eBay.

Interim Police Chief Jeffrey Lange said he is offering the parking lot and front reception area for private exchanges of goods for money to help prevent crime.

“A person could get robbed,” Lange said. “What if it was a female who could be sexually assaulted? That’s something we should be concerned with, and that’s why I’m offering this service. I would like to be more proactive and prevent things, than reactive and worry about the criminal element then.”

The parking lot is kept under watch and the entrance lobby has video surveillance, Lange said.

“I heard about this (idea) from word of mouth from police chiefs that I work with,” Lange said, “and it’s more community service that we want to offer to the citizens of Paris.”

The parking lot could be used at any time, but the front lobby is only open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Lange said no appointment is necessary, but people wishing to use the lobby might want to check with the front office ahead of time to ensure the reception area will be unlocked when it will be needed.

The telephone number is 207-743-7448.

When it comes to providing transaction safe zones, some police departments do, some don’t, and some find compromises.

In Auburn, with the police station in the basement of Auburn Hall, there’s plenty of space for people to meet and to safely complete their transactions.

“We have always encouraged people to use our lobby for these types of transactions, much like a lot of child custody swaps take place in our lobby,” Auburn’s Deputy Police Chief Jason Moen said. “We are looking at designating an area in the parking garage as a safe zone and we are evaluating if we need additional security cameras for this.”

In Lewiston, the police station is downtown, with no dedicated parking lot. Police there don’t encourage transactions at the station, but they don’t discourage them, either.

“This is not something that we are involved in,” Deputy Police Chief Brian O’Malley said. “I am aware that, at times, parents have conducted child exchanges in our lobby but not with a police officer standing with them. People often will meet outside the Police Department, but I am not aware of our location being used as a safe zone for online sales transactions.

“That being said, if there are parking spaces available and someone chooses to park legally in one of them and meet someone else to exchange an item that they are selling, we would not put a stop to it,” O’Malley said.

The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office does not offer space for transactions, nor do most smaller town departments.


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