The Papillion Police Department is the latest law enforcement agency in the area to open “safe zones” for exchanges of Craigslist goods.

Two adjacent parking spots, in front of the department at 1000 E. First St., opened in early September, with signs marking them as reserved for safe zone transactions.

Lt. Orin Orchard said the department decided to establish the safe zone after a request from a citizen. The idea was borrowed from the Bellevue Police Department, which created its own safe zone in May, Orchard said.

The parking spots at the Papillion Police Department are under video surveillance around the clock. Orchard said he encourages people to use the spots during the daytime, if possible.

If it isn’t possible to use the spots during daylight hours, or if a person can’t come to the station, a police officer can be requested to be present for an exchange anywhere in the city, he said.

The spots also can be used for exchanges other than Craigslist goods, such as a child custody exchange between parents.

The safe zone came at a minimal cost to the department. The signs cost about $200, and the surveillance cameras were already on the building, though they had to be repositioned, Orchard said.

Laurie Synowiecki, a spokeswoman for the Bellevue Police Department, said she hadn’t heard reports of people having problems using the city’s spots.

The Omaha Police Department does not have a marked safe zone for exchanges and has no plans to establish one, but it encourages citizens to use the department headquarters at 505 S. 15th St. — which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week — if they are making an exchange with a stranger.

Above all, Orchard said, it’s important to use common sense.

“You’re never really sure who you’re dealing with,” he said.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1304,

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