Milford to designate e-commerce exchange area at police station

The Milford, Conn., police headquarters building.

The Milford, Conn., police headquarters building.

Jill Dion / Hearst Connecticut Media

You’ve arranged to buy camera equipment or a car from a seller on Craigslist.

Now it’s time to meet to complete the transaction.

Well, meeting a stranger to conduct business can be dangerous. That is why Milford, like other communities around the country, will be designating an e-commerce exchange area in the police station parking lot for such transactions.

The Milford Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Aug. 5 in support of a resolution to set aside two parking spaces at the Milford Police Department at 430 Boston Post Road where people who exchange goods purchased from Offer Up, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and other popular sites can meet.

“It is a well known fact that when conducting e-commerce transactions people may be vulnerable to robbery, theft and other violence,” the resolution states.

Police will not monitor exchanges, but the city’s aldermen believe that just being based in the police station parking lot makes the transactions safer.

Similar areas have been set up at police departments and sheriff’s departments around the country, according to online news sources.

The two parking spaces in Milford will be clearly marked with signs for e-commerce exchange, and will only be used for e-commerce transactions.

Alderman Anthony Giannattasio (R-1), who proposed the resolution, said he has heard about people meeting in the mall parking lot or at gas stations for these transactions, and he’s read about people being “set up” and robbed, though not in Milford, he added.

“This is a great step forward,” Giannattasio said, adding that according to Police Chief Keith Mello, people can also use the police station lobby to make their exchange.

The Milford Police Department had already been hosting these kinds of exchanges for a few years, according to Police Spokesman Mike DeVito.

“People have been using the front lot and some used the front lobby, and it’s gone smoothly,” DeVito said.

People don’t need to call ahead, the parking lot is available all hours and every day, and there are surveillance cameras in the area.

“We don’t interact with either party at all,” DeVito said.

Giannattasio said while the practice existed, the signage will be new and will make the e-commerce zone more formal. He also anticipates advertising it once the signs are posted.

His fellow aldermen agreed that formally establishing an e-commerce exchange zone is a good idea.

“This will immensely change how these transactions are done and increase the safety for the citizens of Milford,” said Alderman Karen Fortunati (D-5).

Nick Veccharelli (D-2) said he bought a car once in the Stop & Shop parking lot, and sometimes he’s gone to the seller’s house to make a purchase, “but always with some reservations.”

“You don’t know what people’s intentions are sometimes,” Veccharelli said.

He advised that if a potential buyer or seller does not want to meet in the police department parking lot to make an exchange, the person is probably not to be trusted.

“That certainly throws up a red flag,” Veccharelli said. “So maybe it’s best you don’t meet with them if they don’t want to meet you there.”

Dan German (R-4) said, “As e-commerce grows, I think this is a proactive way to prevent things that could happen in the future.”