Buying a cheap futon may be getting safer in Miami-Dade County.
A new proposal would open parking lots in county police stations to people buying and selling items on Craigslist and other online classified sites. The idea is to scare off criminals who use the digital bulletin boards to find robbery victims online.
“It’s a real problem,” said Juan Perez, deputy director of the Miami-Dade Police Department. “We’ve had people advertise cars on some of these websites. People come with the money, and they rob them.”
Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman won support Tuesday to study whether the county should join a national trend of police stations serving as “safe havens” for transactions arranged online.
Last month, Columbia, Missouri, opened up the lobby of its police station as a place for buyers and sellers to meet 24 hours a day. Broward County last summer began using its Weston police station as a haven, and Boca Raton launched a similar program, too. The Coral Springs Police Department posted a message on its Facebook page this week urging residents to use its parking lot for Craigslist transactions.
Heyman’s resolution cites a string of Craigslist transactions that went bad in South Florida: a 17-year-old in Hialeah was robbed at gunpoint last October when he tried to sell a pair of sneakers; a father of three was briefly kidnapped in a Target parking lot in Sunrise when trying to sell an iPhone; and the U.S. Marine who in 2011 was shot in Miramar when trying to sell a gold chain posted on Craigslist by his fiancé. After being shot, Lt. Col. Karl Trenker plugged the bullet holes with his fingers.
While other jurisdictions let buyers and sellers inside, Heyman said she only wanted Miami-Dade to make police stations’ parking lots available for transactions. Her resolution called for establishing at least four havens in the county, and says other public facilities could be considered.
Heyman’s resolution, which passed unanimously, requires the administration of Mayor Carlos Gimenez to study her proposal and come back to commissioners with a recommendation.
Though she didn’t vote against it, Commissioner Barbara Jordan objected to Heyman’s proposal. Jordan said it would make the police stations responsible for protecting encounters happening outside their walls.
“To me,” she said, “we’re opening up Pandora’s Box.”