March 31, 2016

Sheriff's Office sets up secure 'meeting place' for online transactions


The Dare County Sheriff’s Office has just established a safe and secure “meeting place” for residents who are conducting transactions with individuals they have met online.

With the rise of commonplace sales via online platforms -- such as eBay, Craigslist and Facebook-based yard sales -- more and more people are meeting virtual strangers to complete a purchase, and this new central meeting spot gives folks an option to ensure the transaction is safe and out in the open, from start to finish.

“[The online selling process] has become more of a person-to-person process than a person-to-company process,” says Capt. Kevin Duprey of the Dare County Sheriff’s Office, “and sometimes people may not feel comfortable with having someone come to their home to get an item. This gives you a neutral alternative.”

The idea originated with Dorothy Toolan, Dare County's public information officer, who had heard of a similar set-up in the community of Apex, N.C. She went to the sheriff with the proposal, who, in turn, decided it was a great idea and established the site.

The exchange location is at the Dare County Justice Center in front of the courthouse in Manteo, and two parking spaces bordered by signs provided by the Dare County Public Information Office mark the spot. The area is under video surveillance -- as indicated by the signs -- ensuring that if anything does go awry, the incident will be captured.

While the new meeting place serves as an alternate option for meeting someone you don’t know, regardless of how you conduct an online transaction, you should always use a big dose of common sense.

The Dare County Sheriff’s office suggests that when completing purchases, you should take someone with you, do the exchange in daylight hours, and note things such as vehicle description and tags just in case something happens.  The video surveillance is present at the site, so use it to your advantage and have the persons exit their vehicle so the camera system picks them up, just in case identifying someone becomes necessary down the road.

Residents can rest assured that the new meeting point wasn’t established because of an ongoing problem with local online purchases, Duprey says, but because the county wanted to get ahead of the game and proactively curtail any issues before they had an opportunity to arise.

In addition to the new meeting place, the sheriff’s office also issued a reminder for visitors and locals alike to use caution as the weather heats up, and vehicle and house break-ins potentially become more prevalent -- simply because of an increase in area population.

“It’s easy for [potential thieves] to watch for people to leave their house to go to the beach, and then note if they have locked the door or not,” explains Duprey.

If they haven’t locked the door behind them, a thief could then slip in and steal a purse, wallet, or any valuable item that is left out in the open – and the same rule applies to unlocked vehicles as well.

To stay safe, all visitors and residents are encouraged to keep their doors locked, and to keep valuables -- such as purses, wallets, cell phones, and other items -- well out of sight.

Staying safe and theft-free is always a priority, but as the summertime population swells, it’s more important than ever for folks on the island to take necessary precautions.

Hopefully, with communitywide reminders, and the addition of new safety features like the Internet Purchase Exchange Location, visitors and locals alike can look forward to a summer season  that includes plenty of long beach trips or binge shopping on eBay – without any unwanted surprises.

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