By Vivian Collings
Finding that safe public space for your next online purchase is only an OPP detachment away.
The Haliburton Highlands OPP detachment is inviting the public to their designated “community safe zone” in their parking lot located steps from Highway 35.
Project Safe Trade is an OPP initiative that aims to make online transactions safer for both buyers and sellers by providing a well-lit, public place to meet.
The project is an Ontario-wide initiative with designated safe locations in Bracebridge, Collingwood, Thornbury, City of Kawartha Lakes, Carleton Place, Central Hastings, Hawkesbury, Prince Edward County, Quinte West, Bancroft, Essex, Wellington County, Grey Bruce, Elliot Lake, Mattawa, Manitoulin, Little Current, East Algoma, Espanola, Sault Ste Marie, and now Haliburton County.
The Haliburton Highlands detachment has two parking spaces in their parking lot with Project Safe Trade signage and paint provided by the Township of Minden Hills.
OPP provincial constable Michael Melnychuk said to the Times, “It is important to conduct these transactions in public places when feasible. People coming to your private residence may obtain personal details about you, what is at your residence, and who lives there. You may also not feel comfortable with the people you are meeting, whereas in a public place, you can just drive away and not feel pressured. At the OPP station, you are not isolated. The area is well lit and clearly visible from [Highway 35].”
The website states that only five per cent of internet and phone scams are reported due to victim embarrassment, so the OPP created Project Safe Trade to help decrease the amount of online transactions made in secluded parking lots or personal residences.
“Online classified and auction sites are often used as tools to sell stolen property to unknowing victims and can present a safety threat. In order to increase public safety and reduce crime, the Ontario Provincial Police is inviting members of the public to use their OPP detachment parking lot to facilitate property transactions arranged online,” as stated on the OPP website.
Administrator of the Haliburton/Minden Moms Swap and Buy Facebook page Aarica Hurl said that some people may feel intimidated to use to the OPP detachment as a meeting space, but those that desire to feel safe will use it.
“I think it’s a good idea to have a safe location in general, whether it’s the police station or somewhere else. Transactions need to feel safe, and in our rural area, there are unknown dangers like poorly-maintained roads and areas without cell coverage,” she said.
Hurl explained, if she were to buy off of a website like Kijiji when she isn’t acquainted with the seller, she would prefer to meet at a safe, public location like the OPP detachment.
“If the person had bad intentions, they are less likely to show up if that was where you picked as your meeting spot,” Hurl said.
She added a public meeting place would be safer for her family.
“As a mom of two, I know there were times I was unsure about meeting at someone’s house alone or people coming to my home, so I would ask to meet at a parking lot in town where people could see us,” Hurl said.
Any legal transactions made at the Project Safe Trade meeting area will not be mediated by the OPP.
“Under normal circumstances, there will be no police intervention. Officers will not provide documentation and will not be a witness to a transaction. However, should one of the parties request an officer, one will respond. Officers will only intervene if the transaction becomes a bylaw, provincial, or criminal matter,” read an OPP statement.
The Haliburton Highlands OPP detachment is located at 12598 Highway 35 in Minden. For more information about Project Safe Trade, visit opp.ca/index.php?id=115&lng=en&entryid=59dfa1e78f94ac460b0bfada.
“The project is still new, but we are welcoming anyone who wants to utilize this option,” Melnychuk said.
Buyers can also use the Canadian Police Information Centre to check if any of the property they purchase has been reported stolen at www.cipc-cpic.ca/index-eng.htm.