A man finds an item on the internet he would like to purchase and arranges a meeting with the seller.

A man and a woman going through a divorce have to meet once a month to transfer custody of their child.

These situations could be considered unsafe or uncomfortable. Some have resulted in a person being robbed, injured or killed.

In Jackson County, people now can feel safe, comfortable and confident knowing that safe exchange zones are available.

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One is in the parking lot to the west of the Seymour Police Department, and the other is in the parking lot of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in Brownstown.

In those areas, green signs are posted at side-by-side parking spaces. The phone number for the police agency is on the signs in the event of a non-emergency, while 911 is posted for emergencies.

They qualify as safe exchange zones because they are under 24/7 video surveillance, giving both parties a secure place to make an exchange.

It was a project of the Leadership Jackson County community awareness team of Ben Boyer, Robin Cummings, Cory Hess, Susan Stuckwisch and John Watson.

“These new safe exchange zones provide a public, well-lit and 24/7 camera-recorded location to exchange goods or kids or whatever it is you need to exchange all year-’round,” Boyer said.

For a safe exchange zone to work and be a valuable tool, it relies on both parties to work together, Boyer said.

“Most important is always being smart about who you deal with and how,” he said. “A safe exchange zone can be a valuable tool to help keep things going well and keep everyone involved feeling confident about it.”

The project team initially wanted to establish safe exchange zones in Brownstown, Crothersville, Medora and Seymour. But Crothersville and Medora didn’t work because they don’t have 24-hour surveillance available. Signs could be put up somewhere in those communities if 24-hour surveillance becomes available.

The team saw importance in this project after learning the odds of being a victim of a crime is 1 in 20 in Jackson County, which is higher than the state (1 in 38) and nation (1 in 26).

It’s high in the county because of the number of thefts that occur, said Watson, a Seymour police officer.

Many of those thefts are drug-related because people need money to feed their habit, he said. They will post a fake ad online pretending to sell something, arrange a meeting with a buyer, wait for the person to show up and then rob them of their money.

“With these safe exchange zones, that hopefully will eliminate a lot of that if people utilize them,” Watson said.

Having video surveillance also will help police if someone makes an accusation against the person he or she is meeting.

“Now, that will eliminate false claims, and if something happens, we can have documentation,” Watson said.

The project team is in the process of having the Jackson County safe exchange zones listed on the website safetradestations.com. There, you can find a list of the safe exchange zones in the United States and Canada.

Pamphlets also were created by the team to let people know about the new safe exchange zones. The pamphlet has a feature on the back where it can be mailed to someone involved in an exchange, letting them know about all about the safe exchange zone.

Green T-shirts with “Ask me about safe exchange zone” on the front and information about the local exchange zones on the back were created and have been handed out, too.

“Just a parking space being there doesn’t help,” Boyer said. “Everyone has to know it’s here. Everyone has to know that they can go at any time and make these exchanges. There is no cost. It’s a parking space. You just drive into it.”

Now that safe exchange zones exist here, it’s important to spread the word, Cummings said.

“These are no good if they are not used,” she said. “These are great if everyone is using them. We can reduce a lot of that crime that’s happening other places, as well.”

At a glance

Tips for making Internet purchases

  • Limit personal information on your media.
  • Make calls from an unlisted phone number.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what you are doing.
  • Always meet in a public, well-lit place, such as a safe exchange zone. If somebody is not willing to come to the police department to do a transaction during the day, it is probably not a legitimate transaction.
  • Never meet at someone else’s home, and do not allow them into yours.
  • Bring someone with you, if possible.
  • Always keep your cellphone close.
  • Remain extra cautious when buying or selling valuable items, such as vehicles and jewelry.
  • Only use or accept cash or money orders to complete your transactions.
  • Trust your instincts. If it sounds like a scam, it probably is a scam.
  • Take your time, and stay in control. Don’t be persuaded to do anything you feel uncomfortable doing, no matter what is said. It is OK to decide not to complete the transaction.

Tips for making child custody exchanges

  • Keep the best interest of the child in mind.
  • Always be on time.
  • Don’t make last-minute changes.
  • Don’t arrive unprepared for transportation, bad weather, etc.
  • Don’t bring drugs, alcohol, firearms, dates or unfamiliar or controversial people to the exchange.
  • Never discuss other issues at the exchange.
  • Never make your child the intermediary.

On the Web

To locate a safe exchange zone, visit safetradestations.com.

The two new safe exchange zones in Jackson County — at the Seymour Police Department and Jackson County Sheriff’s Department — soon will be added to that website.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.