NORFOLK — Over 46,000 people are members of the public Facebook group Madison County Exchange which serves to facilitate trades, purchases, job postings and more throughout the Norfolk area. The interface sees dozens of posts per day and likely spawns multiple transactions every day.
The popularity of the page and similar sites across the internet begs the question, do you really know who you’re buying from? Often times, the answer is no.
“You don’t know who you’re dealing with all the time,” Norfolk Police Captain Don Miller said. “You’re dealing with strangers.”
Capt. Miller says that uncertainty led to the official expansion of its Trade Safe Program just over a month ago, which encourages the public to use the police station parking lot and lobby space as a meeting place to make exchanges.
Police were already offering the area as a safe spot for child custody exchanges, but now encourage people to use it as a safe and comfortable spot to exchange goods.
“To help people find a location that they’re comfortable with to make those exchanges,” Capt. Miller said. “And if they would need help for some reason we’re right here and available to help if necessary.”
NPD hasn’t officially monitored if people are using the trade safe space, but Capt. Miller says they police haven’t had to respond to a fraud or theft stemming from an exchange since it started.
He says the program should work for a simple reason: if somebody wants to commit a crime, they’re less likely to do it in front of a police station.
“If they’re not comfortable coming to the police station, you probably don’t want to make that transaction,” Capt. Miller said. “No transaction is worth getting hurt over.”
NPD does want to remind the public that exchanges are civil matters and they won’t oversee or mediate transactions but parties can request to check if an item has been reported stolen or not.
NPD DISCLAIMER: There are some guidelines that all parties must follow when utilizing the designated areas. No weapons, drugs, medication, or hazardous items will be allowed to be traded at this location. Under no circumstances may any children or items be left unattended on Norfolk Police Division property.
Upon request, Norfolk Police Division employees may check to see if an item has been reported stolen. If the item is found to be stolen, it will be seized. No refunds or compensation by the Norfolk Police Division will be provided for the items found to be stolen.
Video surveillance of the front parking lot and lobby area inside the police station will be retained for 30 days. Any requests for video from the “Trade Safe” area must be made within that time frame and must be submitted in writing. Any request beyond 30 days cannot be accommodated.