Jonesboro program aims to make online item exchanges safer

by George Jared ([email protected]) 171 views 

Ronnie Reeves thought he was getting a really great deal on a car. He saw an ad on Craig’s List for a car in the Memphis area. The owner wanted cash. Reeves went to the bank, and he and his wife made the hour trip to Tennessee.

The couple arrived in an affluent neighborhood, and nothing seemed amiss. Reeves noticed a man down the street and he started to run toward their car. Another man appeared.

Only this one had a gun.

“Floor it!” Reeves yelled to his wife. The man pointed the gun at their car as they zoomed away, unhurt. The incident several months ago still haunts Reeves.

“They fooled me with some type of voice disguising device,” Reeves told Talk Business and Politics. “I thought I was talking to an older man and his sister about the car. If I’d known it was two, young thugs, I would have been more leery.”

Buying items off the internet from unknown individuals can be dangerous, but a program, Swap Spot, may be the solution. Natalie Fleeman is a member of the Leadership Jonesboro 2016 class, and she and her teammates developed the idea after reading about safe exchange zones in other cities, she told Talk Business and Politics.

Their idea was to establish safe exchange zones around Jonesboro. Five places were selected, and the city enthusiastically embraced the concept, according to information released. A simple set of criteria was established. The spots had to have a police presence at all times and needed to be in places that might deter criminal activity, she said. Cameras to monitor activity also had to be present. The first site selected was at the Jonesboro Police Department. Signs were erected Wednesday by the group.

Three city fire departments will also serve as safety zones, as will the downtown Jonesboro Justice Complex. The fire stations have round the clock police protection. Those stations would be ready by Friday. Security cameras will be installed in the Justice Complex before it will be used, she said.

If the police have time and access to the right technology, some of the exchanged items can be checked against stolen property reports, meaning if an item has been reported or stolen, it can be caught before an exchange, Fleeman said.

Social media has been abuzz since the announcement of the swap spots. On Facebook alone, the swap spot page has been shared more than 1,000 times and liked more than 700 times.

Those who want to exchange items can do so without calling authorities at the spots, Fleeman said. But, those who want to have a police officer or fireman with them when the exchange goes down can if one is available, she said.

The program cannot ensure complete safety, but it will be a significant deterrent, she hopes. Similar programs have cropped up in spots around the country, especially bigger cities and urban areas.

“I’ve exchanged things in the past, but I have a husband and he came with me,” she said. “I know there are women out there who don’t have a man or male to take with them, and that can be scary. Hopefully, this will help with that.”