St. Clair residents can make exchanges with people they meet online safely in the parking lot or lobby of the police department.
Police Chief Bill Hammack said the department has encouraged the community to use their parking lot or lobby as an area for exchanges in years past. A “Meetup Spot” sign was recently placed outside to spread awareness.
The sign was donated by OfferUp, an internet-based company where people buy and sell their goods.
The public can meet in the back parking lot or the lobby of the police department where there is a 24/7 surveillance camera.
When making an exchange, Hammack said it is “always best” to meet someone, especially from the internet, at a place with a surveillance camera or at a police station.
“For your own personal safety, it’s never a good idea to meet someone in a secluded area,” he said.
If a person does not want to convene at a police station, then that is a warning sign to not meet that person, according to Hammack.
If “the other person is hesitant to meet at the police department during regular business hours, then that’s a red flag,” Hammack said.
“They should probably not meet that person anywhere else if they refuse to meet at the police department. There’s a reason that they don’t want to.”
The best time to schedule a meetup at the police station is during regular business hours. Throughout the day, support staff are available if something goes wrong, Hammack said.
Although officers work night shifts, Hammack cannot guarantee an officer will be available at the station.
Exchange Gone Wrong
Hammack noted an exchange that took place last year at a local gas station where counterfeit money was involved.
On Oct. 9, a 27-year-old man from Cuba met with a 24-year-old man from St. Louis at a FastLane gas station off Highway 47 in St. Clair.
The two met through Craigslist. The Cuba man sold his Chevy to the St. Louis man for $5,150. The St. Louis man paid him in $50 and $100 bills.
The Cuba man realized he had been paid with counterfeit money after he tried to use the cash at stores, according to Hammack. On Oct. 23, the Cuba man contacted St. Clair police and the St. Louis man was identified through video footage from the FastLane gas station.
Upon the investigation, Hammack said the St. Louis man was already arrested in the city of St. Louis on a different charge and was being held at the St. Louis Corrections Division.
This counterfeit case was turned over to the United States Secret Service, according to Hammack.
“The surveillance camera that was at that gas station allowed us to identify the vehicle, the license plate of person,” Hammack said.
“If he would’ve met this person at a location that didn’t have a surveillance camera, we wouldn’t have had that information.”
St. Clair Police Department is located at 1 Paul Parks Drive.
Regular business hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. excluding holidays.