Miami-Dade County

Crime Watch: Recent robbery shows need for caution when buying from Craigslist

This week I want to share my column with Hialeah police Lt. Carl Zogby regarding an incident dealing with Craigslist — a subject we have discussed here before. Please share this with family and friends.

Here’s what Lt. Zogby had to say:

I want to call attention to an armed robbery that occurred in Hialeah’s Walker Park, on the evening of Tuesday, Oct 21. Seventeen-year-old Steven Benavides went to the park, at 2845 W. Eighth Ave., to meet with a young man identified as “Joe.” Steven had spoken to Joe in regards to an ad on Craigslist for a pair of Michael Jordan sneakers at a cost of $400. Steven asked Joe to meet him at the park to make the purchase. Steven had the right idea because he believed the park was a public place and he would be safe. Steven even brought a couple of friends as an added precaution.

Unfortunately, Steven underestimated the audacity of today’s criminals. Steven, with cash in hand, walked towards Joe, as his friends waited in a car parked nearby. Steven found it strange that Joe had no sneakers with him, and before he had a chance to ask, Joe snatched the $400 from Steven’s hand while lifting his shirt and exposing a firearm tucked in his waistband. Despite the obvious threat, Steven’s reaction was to tackle Joe to the ground and get his money back. During the struggle, Joe fired one shot at Steven, but fortunately missed him. Needless to say, that stunned the victim, and Joe was able to run to a waiting red Toyota Camry, which sped away. Unfortunately, Steven’s friends were too far [away] to help, and perhaps in this case that was a good thing. The most important thing of course, is that neither Steven nor his friends were injured. Joe is described as a white male with a teardrop tattoo near his right eye.

The primary job of the police is to apprehend the assailant, but this becomes a challenge when you don’t know his identity and the only contact the suspect and victim had is through a cellphone, which often turns out to be a disposable or prepaid phone that may be almost impossible to trace back to the suspect.

What can we learn from this young man’s misfortune? By all accounts, Steven is a very nice young man who likes collecting Jordan sneakers. Nothing wrong with that. He tried to do things right regarding the meeting with Joe. He felt he was safe in a public park, which he knew well, and with his friends at shouting distance away. Sounds good, but now we know he truly was not safe.

Let’s review:

▪ Steven should have trusted his instincts when he found it very suspicious that Joe insisted on only accepting cash.

▪ A park sounds like a safe public place, but in reality it has many isolated locations, especially after dark. A public place should be well lit and full of people, like a mall. And always meet during the day.

▪ Yes, it was a good idea to bring friends, but not have them waiting a distance away. Always stay together.

▪ Never, ever, ever, put up any resistance when faced with an armed threat.

The fact is, countless safe transactions are performed every day through Craigslist or other classified-advertising websites. But it is also true that these sites can create a perfect venue for criminals. There’s no fail-safe advice I can give anyone for conducting safe cash transactions with strangers, especially when it involves inviting the stranger to your home or vice-versa. It is inherently very risky and should be approached with the utmost “Buyer Beware” mindset.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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