Police seeing a drop in robberies for online transactions

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's been six months since Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and Quik-Trips teamed up to launch exchange zones - places where strangers can meet to conduct online transactions.

The department says the program seems to be making a difference. Police say as far as they know, no robberies have happened at any of the exchange zones since they opened last November. And, officers say, statistics show a drop in robberies when strangers meet to complete online transactions.

Fourteen QT's in Charlotte have designated spaces with 24-hour video monitoring so people could feel a bit safer meeting a stranger to buy or sell something they advertised online.

Police say prior to the safe exchange zones, they were noticing that more and more people were being robbed during those transactions.

For Zachary Finch, the ending was much worse.

Police say the college baseball player was shot and killed last June on Farmer Street when he showed up to conduct a transaction for a cellphone. The suspects were eventually arrested.

Finch's death and the other online robberies spurred the creation of the exchange zones.

"Obviously, meeting a total stranger is a little scary," said Officer Johnathan Frisk. "Naturally money is involved in these situations so what we wanted to do was put this in play where it's 24-hour video monitoring. There's a lot of people. If it's night time it's fairly well lit."

Police say when it comes to transactions on social media sites such as Letgo, Offerup, and Facebook, there were 22 robberies between Nov 1, 2016, and April 2017.

But, police say, in the six months since exchange zones opened, online robberies for those apps dropped to ten.

No robberies occurred at the safe exchange zones.

"Parties felt like they were being watched, felt probably a lot safer than just meeting at a random location meeting a total stranger," Officer Frisk said.

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