Police department lobby opened to Craigslist buyers, sellers

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Buying and selling on Internet marketplaces like Craigslist can be risky.

Earlier this year, a Georgia couple looking to purchase a classic car on Craigslist disappeared after answering an ad. Their bodies were recovered and a suspect who posted the online ad turned himself in, according to local authorities. That's why the Miami Beach Police Department is offering its lobby as a safe place to complete online transactions.

"Think about it: you're doing an online transaction. I post something for sale, you post something for sale," said Miami Beach Officer Ernesto Rodriguez. "We're engaged through text message or online, but you never really know who's on the other end of that transaction, and you never know what their motives are."

Like most large departments in South Florida, the Miami Beach Police Department is open 24 hours a day. The lobby is well lit and an officer is always nearby.

"We actually have an officer staffed here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," Rodriguez said.

Following an incident two years ago in Broward County, the Broward Sheriff's Office offered its Weston parking lot as a safe zone to do business, too.

Rodriguez said if you are unable to meet a potential buyer or seller at a police department, it is important to meet in a well-lit public place, to have a friend with you and to always have a cellphone handy in case of an emergency.

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