URBANA, Ill. – The University of Illinois Police Department is encouraging students and others who are buying or selling items online through services like Facebook or Craigslist to complete those transactions in safe places this holiday season.
To facilitate that, the University Police Department is making its own lobby available for people who are meeting with strangers to make those exchanges. The UIPD lobby at 1110 W. Springfield Ave., Urbana, is open 24/7 and is equipped with security cameras.
“We know that our students are using the online marketplace to buy and sell valuable items for cash,” said Executive Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Craig Stone. “We want to offer a service to keep our students safe. If those transactions are happening in person, it is important to meet in a public place to deter crime.”
In November, UIPD received a report of a student’s laptop computer being stolen as he tried to sell it to an unknown person who contacted him through an online marketplace after the student posted the computer for sale. When the two parties met outside of a campus library, the offender remained in his car and asked the student to pass him the computer through an open window. When the student did so, the offender drove away without paying.
Beyond theft, meeting unknown people to make transactions involving cash or valuable items can be dangerous.
“We wanted to provide a simple way to prevent those kinds of incidents,” Stone said. “Even the mere suggestion of meeting at the police department could deter a would-be criminal from attempting a theft or robbery.”
Anyone wishing to conduct a transaction in the police department lobby is welcome to do so. Police officials ask that you arrive a couple minutes early so you can inform UIPD front desk staff what you are doing there.
It is also important to check the profile of someone you may be meeting. Ideally, you should try to confirm the person’s identity before you arrange to make the sale to make sure they are who they say they are. If someone’s profile looks suspicious or questionable for any reason, it may not be a good idea to proceed with the sale.
Meetings should always take place in a well-lit, high-traffic area, and preferably an area equipped with security cameras.
“The simple act of proposing a meeting at the police department may be all that’s needed to turn away someone with bad intentions,” Stone said.