SEAFORD — With 24/7 camera surveillance, the city police department’s property will soon join other agencies in Delaware that offer an official “safe exchange zone” — a designated area for child custody transfer or e-commerce exchanges.
Two spaces in the parking lot of Seaford police headquarters at 300 Virginia Ave. will be identified with signage in this initiative, spurred by City Councilman James King.
“I really appreciate the effort and energy that went into making this come to life,” said Councilman King. “E-commerce sales (are) growing leaps and bounds. It is really nice to know that there is an area in our community where people can go and meet and be safe. It is a team effort. I think it is an added benefit to our community.”
Councilman Jose Santos said the safe zones may also be utilized for child custody exchanges among family members or guardians.
Safe exchange zones afford residents a location that may help reduce and deter fraudulent transactions, while maintaining the privacy of citizens undertaking legal sales. This would include buying from or selling to a stranger via an ad on an e-commerce website or in other media.
The signs for the zones were presented at City Council’s Nov. 23 meeting by Seaford Deputy Chief Michael Rapa.
“Our parking lot is monitored 24 hours, recorded for 24 hours,” he said. “If anything should happen, we will have it on video, and our call-takers will be able to monitor any exchange that is going on.”
Signage will soon be installed at the police department.
The project has been in the works for some time but encountered delay due to infrastructure constraints, renovation scheduling and camera installation, Deputy Chief Rapa said.
“I’d like to recognize Councilman King for his efforts in bringing this,” said Councilman/Vice Mayor Dan Henderson. “It has been a project a long time in coming.”
Safe exchange zones, also known as safe trade zones, are located at many police agencies across the nation.
Among those in Delaware are at the Greenwood Police Department, 100 W. Market St., and the Dover Police Department, 400 S. Queen St.
Greenwood PD has offered a safe, monitored area for at least seven years, according to Shelley Lambden, the agency’s accreditation manager.
There is no actual signage designating Greenwood’s zone, Ms. Lambden said, adding, “The entire parking lot is under surveillance. If there is a need, like child custody things that they feel they want someone to stand by, we do ask that they call ahead, but otherwise, no (signs).”
Likewise, the Dover Police Department does not have a specified area.
“People can conduct e-commerce stuff in our parking lot or in front of the police station. We prefer not necessarily inside of the police station. We don’t (want) to become a shopping mall of sorts, I guess,” said Dover police spokesman Sgt. Mark Hoffman.
“We’ve done it proactively and put it on social media. We have been advertising it for the better part of five years, I would say. A lot of people do come and conduct business in the parking (lot) or on the sidewalk.
“Custody exchange has always been kind of a thing,” he added, noting the peace of mind given with police surveillance. “The biggest thing was cellphones for a while. We had a scam going where people were selling cellphones, and then, they show up and rob the people.”