Residents hoping to buy or sell anything from a sofa to a computer on an online site like Craiglist can get some help, and peace of mind, from the Wake Forest Police Department.
The department launched Operation Safe Sale in May. Through the program, residents can make an appointment at the downtown police station to verify that an item hasn’t been stolen or to meet a buyer or seller at a safe location.
It’s the first program of its kind in the area, although most Wake County police departments welcome residents who want to complete online transactions at stations.
“We’re committed to safeguarding the lives and property of the people in our community,” Wake Forest Police Chief Jeff Leonard said in a statement. “Operation Safe Sale offers us an invaluable way to do that and reduce the sense of anxiety many residents feel whenever they are buying or selling items advertised online.”
In 2009, Philip Markoff was charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery for killing a woman he met through Craigslist, a website in which people can advertise personal goods and services.
There have also been other murders around the country that began with an online sale, although none reported in North Carolina.
Residents can request to have a Wake Forest officer present while taking part in a sale. An officer can also check an item’s serial number to make sure it isn’t stolen.
Any item found to be stolen could be confiscated by police and criminal charges could be filed, according to a news release from the town.
Tricia Steiger of Wake Forest took advantage of Operation Safe Sale the day after the department introduced the initiative May 26.
She planned to buy a laptop from a seller on Craigslist and wanted to make sure it wasn’t stolen. An officer ran the serial number through local and federal databases and confirmed it wasn’t stolen, Steiger said.
Although she didn’t meet the seller at the police station, she said the service made her feel more comfortable.
“I really think it will discourage the dishonest sellers,” she said.
Craig Askew said he has participated in more than 100 Craigslist sales and often brings another person with him when meeting up with strangers.
“I really love the idea of a safe place to complete the transaction,” he said. “One less thing to worry about.”
To schedule a time to make a sale, call the police department at 919-554-6150. The station is located at 225 S. Taylor St., Wake Forest.