POLICE have established a series of special zones in the Whittlesea and Darebin municipalities in a trial to help buyers and sellers safely exchange items bought online.

The exchange zones have been set up outside 24-hour police stations in the area, including Epping, Mernda, and Mill Park police stations, with CCTV coverage being trialled from Thursday last week.

Police are looking to raise awareness of the importance of safety following instances of sellers being robbed or assaulted when meeting to exchange items they had listed on online trading sites.

Superintendent Sean Woods said with a large number of transactions made on online marketplaces, it was important people felt safe when arranging to meet strangers to buy or sell items.

“While the number of robberies in the local area are relatively low, we don’t want to see even one incident occur and that’s why we’re doing everything we can to prevent this type of crime,” he said.

“We still ask that people consider the risks of meeting someone they have never met before – if you decide to proceed with this method then we also advise to take some common sense safety measures such as meeting during daylight hours and taking someone with you.”

Exchange zones have been in use in the United States for some time, with feedback suggesting people feel safer meeting in designated sites instead of inviting people to their home or unsafe areas.

“If you are the unfortunate victim of a robbery, notify police as soon as possible so we can make sure we do our part and apprehend the offenders responsible,” Superintendent Woods said.

“Police will continue to work with local councils and our stakeholders to boost crime prevention measures and ensure we are addressing issues that matter most to our community.” The trial will run over several months to establish whether the sites improve community safety and if there are potential benefits in establishing more sites in other locations.

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