Reedsburg has hopped aboard a nationwide trend aimed at making online transactions between anonymous buyers and sellers safer.
The Reedsburg Police Department is now a “Safe Deal Zone” site.
Chief Tim Becker said he acted on a suggestion from Mayor Dave Estes to make the police department building the city’s designated transaction site.
“I looked for something where we could be registered somewhere and people could look us up,” Becker said.
Safe Deal Zone is a website that allows municipalities, private businesses and organizations to register their addresses as transaction sites in a nationwide database.
While not necessary, Becker said there’s an advantage to being registered with a site such as Safe Deal Zone because it allows people unfamiliar with the area to identify and locate the city’s site by simply entering a post office ZIP code.
A search at the site Feb. 19 indicated the nearest Safe Deal Zone site to the Reedsburg Police Department is the Naperville Police Department in the Chicago area, 150 miles away.
Last month, the village of Lake Delton became the first in the area to create a public transaction site.
The public area inside the police department, which is under video surveillance, is Reedsburg’s exchange site.
“There’s cameras in the foyer, there’s cameras in the lobby,” Becker said.
Becker said the aim is not for the police department to create a record of the transaction or become a partner to the transaction, it’s just to provide a safe place for deal making.
Last year Craigslist, a popular online site for the exchange of goods and services, issued a statement encouraging users to complete deals at local police stations.
“It can be a little sketchy if you’re meeting someone you don’t know at the parking lot of some closed business or something like that,” Becker said.
Becker said Reedsburg’s site isn’t only about buy-and-sell transactions. It’s also an ideal place for child custody exchanges between partners.
Two years ago the Common Council voted to fund round-the-clock staffing of the dispatch center inside the police department, which means someone is always there. “So that really fits in well with this program,” Becker said.
Becker said he’s working on getting a sign made for posting outside the police department to advertise the transaction site.
People who want to take advantage of the site don’t need to do anything. There’s no need to make appointments or call ahead, though visitors may want to inform the dispatch officer on duty of why they are there.
“Just show up,” Becker said. “The building is always open.”