County legislator seeks ‘safe spots’ for Craigslist users

County legislator seeks ‘safe spots’ for Craigslist users

Suffolk County Police Department to examine feasibility

Legislator Tom Muratore, center. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Following in the footsteps of municipalities across the nation, the Suffolk County Legislature has agreed to explore creating safe spots where residents could conduct private sales transactions like those from websites like Craigslist.

County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) introduced legislation that would direct the Suffolk County Police Department to study the feasibility of creating the safe spots. The Legislature adopted the bill on May 12, and the findings will be reported to the Legislature within 120 days.

“Technology is changing the way people are doing business,” Muratore said in a phone interview.

The former Suffolk County police officer said he drafted the resolution after hearing about a number of violent crimes committed against people who posted or responded to advertisements on Craigslist.

In January, police charged a man who allegedly killed a Georgia couple looking to buy a vintage car, news reports said. In March, a Colorado woman allegedly stabbed and removed the fetus of a woman who was seven months pregnant and had gone to the suspect’s home in response to an ad.

While the national incidents referenced in the legislation are particularly vicious, there are some cases of misconduct closer to home.

Nearly two months ago, Suffolk County police arrested and charged a 24-year-old Medford man with fourth-degree grand larceny after he allegedly stole a quad from a Centereach resident who had posted the vehicle for sale on Craigslist. Police said the suspect responded to the ad and drove off with quad.

Suffolk County wouldn’t be the first to create such spots. The safe havens — sometimes at police departments or in monitored precinct parking lots — have been set up in Columbia, Mo., Hartford, Conn., and in numerous Georgia towns, to name a few.

“If they can do it, why can’t a major police department do something like that,” Muratore said.

The legislator said precinct parking lots, which could be monitored by closed-circuit cameras, would be good locations for the spots, as there are seven precincts spread across the county, plus the department’s headquarters in Yaphank. The study will also examine any equipment and personnel costs associated with establishing the locations, he said.

According to Craigslist’s website, the majority of users are “trustworthy” and “well-intentioned” and the incidence of violent crimes is “extremely low.”

Craigslist offers some guidelines when meeting someone for the first time. The site said meetings should take place in a public place as opposed to a private home; users should take precautions when selling expensive items; tell someone where they are going; and consider having someone accompany them. In addition, it encourages people to make high-value exchanges at a local police station.

SCPD Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said Tuesday that the department could not comment at this point, but would communicate findings once a report is complete.

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