Grosse Pointe Woods to serve as safer location for Craigslist transactions

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 21, 2015


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Grosse Pointe Woods city officials want people to be cautious when conducting private sales through websites like Craigslist, so they are offering the Public Safety Department lobby as a “safe haven” for those transactions.

Grosse Pointe Woods is joining other communities, including Troy and Madison Heights, in the effort to keep people safe by offering a meeting place to buy or sell items.

Public Safety Director Bruce Smith said he initiated a “safe haven” site in his previous post as the chief in Chesterfield Township.

“Everybody needs a safe place to do some of these transactions,” Smith said. “Obviously, criminals aren’t going to come here to pull a scam on (someone).”

Smith said officials presented the proposal to council at the April 20 meeting, and council members liked the idea.

As a member of the council and a resident of the city, Councilman Richard Shetler said he thought it was a good plan. He said he “was not aware of some of the underhanded” things taking place through transactions like those on Craigslist.

City officials are not the only ones who like the proposal. After the city announced the location in a report during the morning of April 21, people started reaching out with their positive reactions a short time later, Smith said.

“We’ve already gotten several emails and voice messages … saying how great of an idea they thought it was,” he said.

City Administrator Al Fincham was “getting calls, voicemails, emails from everybody thanking (the city),” Shetler said, adding that there’s “just so many positive things with this. We’re the first ones in the Pointes to do it.”

One woman told them that she recently sold a vehicle and was nervous about the transaction, so she was in favor of having the department serve as a safe location, Smith said.

Meeting a stranger to buy or sell a large item can be dangerous.

“You go to buy a car (and) people know you’re showing up with money,” Smith said.

“Nationwide, many Craigslist scams have resulted in robberies, assault and even homicides,” the city stated in the report. “Locally, we have responded to complaints and taken reports of people being scammed out of property and money through purported legitimate Craigslist transactions.”

Smith suggested setting up the meeting in the lobby of the department. If someone balks at the meeting place, that is a red flag, the city stated in the report.

If they don’t want to meet at the station lobby or in the parking lot of the Public Safety Department, the safe step is to walk away from that transaction, the city stated.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” the report stated. “Anybody who would balk at coming here should make you wary.”

With video cameras in the lobby and facing the sidewalk, the location at 20025 Mack Plaza offers some security. Officers will not act as witnesses or take part in the transaction, but police do ask that residents let dispatch or an officer at the counter know that they are there for a transaction.

They do not need to call ahead.