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Good common sense

Maybe we’re old-fashioned, but we still consider the newspaper’s classified section to be the best way for private parties to sell cars and other items to other private parties, to advertise yard sales and to search for good candidates for employment opportunities.

We do recognize, however, that times change and that online services like Craigslist, OfferUp and the Facebook Marketplace have gained a huge following for such advertisements. The market for online classified-type listings has mushroomed in recent years, resulting in an ever-growing series of options for folks who are looking to unload Mom’s old doll collection or clear out space in the family room by getting rid of that dust-gathering piano.

As with just about any human endeavor, however, the growing popularity of such opportunities has also increased the number of scam artists and other criminals who see more chances to help part honest people from their hard-earned money, either through scams or outright theft.

The Suffolk Police Department has not been blind to the problem, and it has taken steps recently to help make these exchanges safe for all involved. Police officials announced this week that they have set up safe transaction zones where citizens are encouraged to meet one another to conclude these online transactions.

The two safe meeting locations are at the Suffolk Police headquarters, 111 Henley Place, as well as the department’s Sector II precinct, 3903 Bridge Road. Both locations have video surveillance 24 hours a day in the lobby as well as surrounding the building, said Maj. James Buie of the Suffolk Police Department.

Police hope the safe zones will help Suffolk avoid the national trend of increasing robberies and assaults connected to buying and selling items via Facebook, Craigslist and other, similar services. Unsuspecting people can be lured to places where they are robbed and assaulted if they are not careful. The safe zones could help keep that from becoming an issue in Suffolk.

Buie said people are likely to feel safer in or near the police buildings, and there is surveillance available if a crime does occur. He believes many people are already using the locations on an unofficial basis to exchange items.

Take advantage of these safe transaction zones. If you use one of these online services, arrange to meet the other party at one of the two locations, conduct your business under the lights and in front of the cameras, and use good common sense about flashing money around.