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Police stress importance of safe exchange zones for online sales after recent robberies

Safe Exchange Location at Mount Pleasant Police Department (WCIV)

Online marketplaces are quickly replacing the traditional yard sale. But buying and selling over social media is not always worth the risk. The Dorchester County Sheriff's Office wants you to be extra careful when arranging a meet-up point.

In a Facebook post, the agency warned several people have been the target at or near the Food Lion off Ashley Phosphate in North Charleston. They said the suspects are posing as potential buyers on social meeting, looking to purchase items like cellphones. When they meet up to complete the transaction, the sellers are held at gunpoint.

Inspector Chip Googe said they see similar cases in Mount Pleasant.

"It's one of those things where you'd see minor things happening, some people were just getting stuff taken from them they would go and meet with people and they'd have it grabbed out of their hand or something of that affect," said Googe.

For people who buy and sell, it pays to be wary.

"Absolutely, absolutely," said Jennifer Takajay, who said many of her friends use Facebook's marketplace. "I think we're crazy nowadays with the way we trust strangers."

"If it's not in a public place, I might call a friend to come over and stick around with me while they come to pick it up because usually it’s a man coming to pick up stuff," said Ayeisha Brinson, visiting from Washington D.C.

Sales gone wrong happen often enough, more cities are designating safe spots to meet up. Mount Pleasant Police Department opened up a space a year-and-a-half ago. It's a safe area recorded on surveillance cameras.

"Yes all the time, we have people here all the time," said Googe. "We've had a couple people who have asked to see the video."

"I've heard of that, I just heard of that recently but I'm not going to cart a sofa to a designated spot," said Brinson.

"I wasn't aware of it, that would make me much more comfortable, I mean, I was comfortable before just doing it in a random spot," said Jeremy Levine, a Charleston visitor. "There's bad examples of everything so I personally, I would feel comfortable but it's just like any sort of meet up or any sort of exchange, you have to take the precaution."

There are several safe exchanges across the Lowcountry:

Hanahan City Hall –1255 Yeamans Hall Road

Mount Pleasant Police Department –100 Ann Edwards Lane

North Charleston City Hall – 2500 City Hall Lane

North Charleston Police Department South Bureau- 3401 Rivers Ave

North Charleston Police Department North Bureau 7272 Cross County

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