Local police departments providing Craigslist users safe place to meet

Websites like Craigslist can be an awesome tool or a quick way to find yourself in a scary situation.

"There have been incidents of violence where you think you're showing up to do a legitimate Craigslist or classified ad transaction and you're robbed at gunpoint or something like that. We've had a few of those here locally," says San Marcos Police Chief Chase Stapp.

San Marcos musician Cory Mann says he's never had any problems using Craigslist.

"Definitely sold some guitars and amps and bought a whole bunch of different equipment off there as well," Mann says.

He says he was a little nervous the first time he made a person-to-person transaction.

"Yeah first time doing it, I was like 'Ehh you know, got to see how this is going to go.'  But yeah meeting in a public place is a good move," he said.

Chief Stapp says to just do it there at the police headquarters. They've put up "Exchange Zone" signs in the parking lot so transactions can be made there or in the lobby. Both spots are well-lit and video monitored 24/7.

"What we tell people is if someone is hesitant or refusing to meet you to do the transaction at the police department. There's probably a bad reason for that and we would recommend that people don't go through with those transactions," Stapp says.

Stapp says there are other ways citizens can use this as well.

"We also want to encourage people to use our station for child custody exchanges on the weekends and things like that. If there's any worry about where to do that then this is a safe place to do it," Stapp says.

According to the Safe Trade Stations website, police departments like Georgetown, Pflugerville and Leander have Safe Trade zones as well.

"Anything's a good thing if we can provide some level of safety for our citizens. If we can prevent violence then the police don't have to get called and deal with a crime after the fact," Stapp says.

"Yeah I think that's a great idea, definitely. The more that they can help protect and serve, the better. Setting up safe zones with a security feed and all that would be wonderful," Mann says.

Some tips from the "Safe Trade" website:

    -- Ask for proof of the seller's identity if the item is something that might have been stolen.
    -- Beware of scams like if a check is for an amount higher than the amount of the deal.
    -- And if you're carrying a big stack of cash, don't make it obvious.  And make sure you're not followed after the transaction.

According to Safe Trade stations like the one in San Marcos, officers will typically not get involved in a transaction. They're just there to make sure you're safe.