Dallas city leaders want to create ‘online safe-exchange zones'

- Dallas city leaders want to create ‘safe zone’ areas for people who buy and sell items through online exchange websites amid growing safety concerns.

Several cities like Irving already have areas where people can make Craigslist-like deals safely. And now, Dallas may provide the service, too.

Days before Christmas, Arlington mother April Van Cleave was shot dead after trying to sell jewelry through the 5miles app, hoping to raise money for a Christmas present for her daughter.

Surveillance video shows two suspects who agreed to meet her in a store parking lot but canceled on the deal. Police say they watched from a Starbucks then followed her home to rob and killer her.

One suspect, 33-year-old Mario Hernan Lopez Gamez, was arrested Saturday in Houston. Ironically, Arlington is among the local cities that have safe exchange zones, though Vancleave did not use one.

Since 2016, three people have been murdered and nearly 200 people were robbed in the city of Dallas. The crimes were all connected to buying and selling goods through websites and apps like Craigslist, OfferUp and 5miles.

One of the murders happened last October when Martha Teran was shot and killed in the Medieval Times parking lot while trying to sell a phone.

It’s the big reason why Dallas city leaders want to create areas where people can make the sales and be out of harm’s way. The city council is proposing the safe exchange zones after a series of cases where people were robbed and even killed.

"We're talking about doing it in the parking lots in front of police stations,” explained Councilmember Sandy Greyson. "That would be a safe place for people to go and make these exchanges without having some of the incidents we've been told about recently where there have been assaults and even some murders."

For about a year, the city of Irving has had a safe exchange zone with 24-hour surveillance cameras in front of its police station. They plan to add more locations.

"The fact that we hear more and more about crimes being committed via these online marketplaces, I think it's only natural you’re going to see and more and more,” said Irving Officer James McLellan. “I think the public would expect that."

Greyson says council members clearly support adding the safe exchange zones and thinks it will happen fairly soon.

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