ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker wants to give county residents a safe location in which to conduct transactions that begin on the Internet.
“As we know, violent crimes that involve strangers making a commercial transaction in person with another individual are on the rise,” said McVicker. “In some cases, where strangers agree to buy and sell something online, there have been reported incidents of robbery, rape and murder. As the number and popularity of mobile marketplace apps increase, more and more users are turning to their smartphones to conduct transactions with strangers.”
McVicker noted there are literally billions of dollars in transactions that will take place this year on these mobile apps alone. The ease and popularity of the apps are clear; what is unclear is how a community can support these marketplaces to thrive in a safe and secure environment by utilizing existing law enforcement resources to protect the participants.
Although the leading online sales providers provide various degrees of verification of users, and at least one, OfferUp, allows for ID verification and ratings by other buyers and sellers, this safety net is not complete until participants feel comfortable meeting at a unique, secure location rather than their home, convenience store, or public park or parking lot to finalize the transaction.
This is where McVicker has come in and created such a spot. In cooperation with OfferUp and other Internet providers he has created an “Internet Purchase Exchange Location” at the new Bladen County Law Enforcement and Detention Center located at 299 Smith Circle in Elizabethtown.
“We are going to put up signage to specify where folks can meet to transact a purchase in a safe environment,” said McVicker. “The location will be in the parking lot of the new Detention Center and will not only be under 24-hour video surveillance, there will be an armed officer on the premises 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
McVicker was quick to point out that this service could not guarantee complete safety but it gave an added layer of protection by being under 24 hour video surveillance to help in the investigation of crimes. Since the Sheriff’s Office is not directly participating in any commercial transactions but merely available in close proximity should an incident occur, the county or Sheriff’s Office would not be assuming legal liability beyond that which would otherwise be present if the Sheriff’s office were required to respond to an incident occurring elsewhere in the county arising out of an e-commerce transaction where a crime occurred.
McVicker sees it as having a positive impact not only on county residents but also on law enforcement by conserving limited resources that otherwise would be expended in responding to a crime arising out of an e-commerce transaction away from the safety of the “Internet Purchase Exchange Location.”
“I think this concept of a safe meeting spot to conduct personal business is good for our citizens,” he said. “Not only can folks buy and sell in a safer environment, it can also be used by families to exchange children where there is joint custody and visitation. This would make both parties feel safer when dropping off or picking up children based on custody issues. When folks know their actions are being recorded on camera they tend to behave in a more seemly manner and this is good not only for the kids but also for the adults.”
Look for the green placard in the designated exchange area at the front of the Law Enforcement Center located at 299 Smith Circle.