With the rise in online sales of personal goods through websites and apps such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, etc. police agencies across the country have noticed the uptick in crimes related to these personal exchanges. VPD Sergeant Tom Callaghan is well aware of this unfortunate trend in local crime and wanted to make a difference for Vancouverites looking to buy and sell in a safe public space.
“All of us should be able to safely buy and sell items through digital exchange sites,” explains Tom. “However, the last couple of years in Vancouver have become a time of increased stranger assaults and household scams throughout the city. For me, it made a lot of sense to look for ways to improve how honest people could safely meet to exchange their items.”
Tom didn’t have to go far to identify a perfect spot for people to meet up. In fact, many Vancouver citizens had already thought of it.
“I noticed people in the city were already meeting outside VPD headquarters at 2120 Cambie Street. It’s a great location, close to Canada Line’s Olympic Village Skytrain Station, major bus lines, bike paths, and obviously close to police officers for safety.”
But what Tom also noticed was the people seemed reluctant to use the large landing area directly outside of the of the main entrance. So he approached them to ask why they were staying down on the sidewalk (and in the rain) and away from the VPD building. They simply explained that they didn’t want to get in the way but liked the sense of safety the VPD building provided.
“Our community should feel welcome and safe to meet strangers there for an honest transaction.”
Shortly thereafter, Tom approached the Vancouver Police Foundation for a grant to create a well-marked, well-lit designated space on the exterior landing of the VPD building on Cambie Street that could be recognized by the public as a safe location to buy, sell or exchange items.
Tom received the funding he needed from the VPF, and worked with VPD’s Public Affairs Section to transform this space into a safe and welcoming area for any member of the public to use in this way. Signage and markers have been installed, as has improved lighting, and eye-level security cameras to provide the lightest level of monitoring and a visual awareness of each person making a transaction. The VPD Safe Exchange site officially opened at 2120 Cambie Street in September 2022.
For those who can’t make it to this location, Tom recommends that anyone meeting a stranger in person for a buy-sell exchange should remain vigilant and keep some important tips in mind.
“While we invite everyone to use our new VPD Safe Exchange site, we understand not everyone can make it to our location. If you cannot travel to 2120 Cambie Street, please choose a safe, populated and well-lit public location. Bring a friend or at least inform a friend or family member of your appointment. Finally, do some research about the seller and the items so that you can protect yourself from counterfeit or stolen goods.”
Buyers and sellers who plan transactions through social media and online apps needed a safe, trusted, and monitored location to complete their exchanges – and Tom has created that for Vancouver. Please consider using this space if you need to make an exchange with a stranger and encourage your family and friends to do the same.
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