Police station offers security for transactions

Sarah Sandlow, News Editor

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A safe area for conducting transactions is located at the Northbrook Police Station at 1401 Landwehr Ave. Both the parking lot and the lobby of the police station are available for use. The parking lot is marked with a sign where video cameras monitor and record the events of the area at all times. Photo by Richard Chu

The Northbrook Police Department created an area in September 2017 that is designated for transactions arranged online between people who need a secure space to deliver and receive products purchased from others. Scott Dunham, deputy chief of police at the Northbrook Police Department, said in a phone interview that both the lobby and the front parking lot of the police station are available for conducting transactions. A sign in the parking lot marks a space where six video cameras constantly record the events that occur in the area. Both the parking lot and the lobby are open at all times and available for anyone to use.

According to Dunham, the security video is not supervised by a person in real time but any transaction that occurs in the parking lot will be recorded. He believes the parking lot is a safe place for transactions because of its proximity to the police station entrance, which provides a quicker, easier way to get help if a dangerous situation occurs.

Rich Nahrstadt, village manager of Northbrook, said in a phone interview that the idea to create a safe area for transactions came up in the summer of 2014 through discussions about a nearby suburb that established the same type of location. As a result, the police station was advertised in local newsletters as a place to conduct transactions, but the sign was installed in 2017 to make it official. Evanston, Glenview, Skokie and other suburbs around Northbrook have designated safe areas as well.

Tom Moore, community relations supervisor for the Northbrook Police Department, said in a phone interview that although he believes Northbrook is generally a safe place to conduct transactions, people never know who they are meeting with.

“With the influx of reports, not only in Illinois but nationwide, of … craigslist scams or people being robbed while conducting transactions, I think there’s just a need and a feeling of security for people to conduct transactions in a safer environment,” Moore said.

Dunham said the police department discussed establishing the area with the Village of Northbrook because of an increase in people using the internet to conduct business, which led to scams. Both the police department and the village felt an area designated for transactions would be a positive addition to the community. 

“The internet is somewhat still the ‘Wild West’ so people just have to … take precautions [because] you’re dealing with people who you don’t know, … you only know who they’re representing themselves to be,” Dunham said.

Junior Reid Bondy said he often uses Facebook Marketplace, a service available through Facebook for locally buying and selling items, for his transactions because he does not trust craigslist. He does background research on the people he plans to interact with before meeting them but usually feels safe meeting them in person. After hearing about the area at the police station, he said he would not use it.

“If I have to go to the police station to meet [strangers], I probably shouldn’t be making the deal with them,” Bondy said.

Junior Maddy Bayzaee said although she sometimes uses websites that are used for transactions, she has never met strangers in person. She believes the area at the police station is a good idea because it is safer and more controlled. 

Moore said transactions taking place in the area are infrequent, but he hopes more people will use the police station as word gets out. He believes people who participate in transactions should conduct them in a public place and should always try to get as much information as possible on the person they plan to meet.

“If you do the transaction at the police department, you’re in a safe, controlled environment,” said Moore. “Your safety has to be the ultimate concern.”

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