Town establishes safe zone for swaps

FORTVILLE — Fortville residents who buy and sell goods through classified services will no longer be left to make those exchanges in parking lots or other places that can attract criminal activity.

Instead, local officials are urging residents to make hand-offs somewhere safer: the police station.

The Fortville Police Department is the second local jurisdiction to introduce the services, following Cumberland, which established a so-called “safe-exchange zone” in March.

Fortville Police Chief Bill Knauer encourages residents to come inside the police station to complete transactions, where an available officer could watch over the transaction, ensuring both parties don’t feel at risk of being robbed or harmed during the exchange.

Offering up space inside the police station should significantly reduce risk for buyers and sellers alike, Knauer said. Residents are also welcome to complete transactions in the parking lot outside the police station, which is housed inside the town’s municipal building, 714 E. Broadway St.

Residents can drop by the police station during the municipal building’s regular business hours to complete transactions between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. After hours, residents can call ahead to arrange to meet an officer when the office is closed, Knauer said. Residents can reach the station by calling 317-485-4044.

Knauer said offering the space for exchanges is one step police can take to help residents feel safe.

“This provides an added blanket of protection for the buyers and sellers,” Knauer said. “We want everyone to feel comfortable and make sure they aren’t getting scammed.”

Though Fortville police haven’t had any calls about exchanges through online services going awry, Pat Calhoun, president of the Fortville Police Commission, said he sees the initiative as a preventive measure.

“It’s not to say it won’t ever occur,” Calhoun said. “But this puts us ahead of the curve.”

Last August, a New Palestine woman was robbed after meeting an Indianapolis man at a gas station in New Palestine to hand off a cellphone for cash. The man snatched the cellphone and sped off; police eventually caught up to the suspect.

Knauer said he heard about similar initiative at police departments nationwide.

The program will require no additional costs for the department, Knauer said.

Cumberland police Lt. Christopher Etherton said the department’s safe exchange area has been used several times since it was initiated. He anticipates use to continue growing as word spreads and more people begin to use online apps to sell and buy items.

Safe swaps

The Fortville Police Department, 714 E. Broadway St., is now a designated safe-exchange zone, where buyers and sellers can meet to trade goods and payment. Residents are also welcome to complete transactions in the parking lot outside the police station.

Drop by the police station during the municipal building’s regular business hours to complete transactions between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. After hours, residents can call ahead to arrange to meet an officer when the office is closed: 317-485-4044.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.