Where online meets offline: Protecting communities one Community MeetUp at a time
The shared effort keeps local buyers and sellers safe
Sponsored by OfferUp
By PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff
The Internet has changed the way we live in ways large and small, including how crimes are planned, committed, and investigated.
Every day, millions of local buyers and sellers agree to meet and exchange money and items in their communities. While the vast majority of those offline exchanges are completed without incident, law enforcement agencies across the U.S. have seen an increase in internet exchange-related crimes, often called “robberies by appointment.”
To help, local marketplace app OfferUp developed Community MeetUp spots.
OFFERUP COMMUNITY MEETUP SPOTS
“Our Community MeetUp Spots program provides an easy and free way to establish a community location that is public, surveilled, well lit, and monitored by the police department,” said Natalie Angelillo, VP of Community at OfferUp. “OfferUp is proud to have law enforcement partners to support our commitment to building trust in communities throughout the country.”
OfferUp, the largest mobile marketplace for local buyers and sellers in the U.S., launched the Community MeetUp Spots program at IACP in 2016 and has now helped hundreds of local law enforcement agencies to establish Community MeetUp Spots for local buyers and sellers in the parking lots and lobbies of police stations.
“We see tremendous value in helping communities build on the trust they have already invested in their local police department,” Angelillo said. “When local buyers and sellers can go to a trusted location to meet and transact, it’s better for everyone.”
HOW POLICE USE MEETUP SPOTS
When a police department connects with OfferUp, the company sends the department a kit containing a variety of resources they will need to establish their Community Meetup Spot.
This includes a 12x18 aluminum sign or signs, simple installation instructions and messaging support for the chief or department administrator.
Once the sign goes up, OfferUp adds the location to the Community MeetUp Spot database in its free app and publicizes it to local buyers and sellers when they use the app’s scheduling tool to arrange an offline transaction.
Many of the first locations were established by police departments that already had strong relationships with OfferUp through past investigation support or training programs. OfferUp has traveled throughout the U.S. offering free training for officers on how to obtain access to important data that can aid in the work of identifying suspects in major cases.
For example in August 2016, OfferUp provided training in the Washington D.C. area for 16 different state and local agencies. Detective Jason Atwood of the Virginia Beach Police Department attended the training, and when OfferUp introduced the Community MeetUp Spots program, he was intrigued.
“Our department already had a similar program called Find A Safe Place, but I wanted to enhance our program,” Atwood said. “OfferUp is great. They want to help just as much as we want to catch the bad guys.”
Virginia Beach PD now has OfferUp signage at all four of its precincts, allowing buyers and sellers to complete their internet transactions in the lobby or parking lot of those locations. The program has worked well to protect citizens from fraudulent transactions and has generated enthusiasm in the community.
“There’s no company that comes to mind that’s so outright pro-law enforcement,” Atwood said of OfferUp’s support for their program.
SETTING UP A COMMUNITY MEETUP SPOT
One of the ways OfferUp helps enhance community internet exchange programs is by helping agencies get the word out in the community, said Carolyn Love, Law Enforcement Relationship Specialist at OfferUp.
“OfferUp surfaces these locations to its users in the app as a way to offer an alternative place to meet a buyer or seller,” Love said. “Our buyers and sellers don’t have to go out of the app, exchange any personal information, or let anyone come to their house.”
The designated location must have adequate lighting, surveillance and signage in order for the OfferUp team to display the location in the app.
“We recommend that participating departments hold a press conference and send a press release to local media outlets to let the community know about their efforts,” Love said. “OfferUp provides ideas, quotes, and company contact information in the Community MeetUp Spots kit, and we’re always happy to lend additional support to departments trying to get the word out.”
OfferUp’s goal is to help establish hundreds of new Community MeetUp Spots at police departments in communities across the country by the end of 2017.
“This is an ongoing mission for us,” Love said. “We believe MeetUp Spots represent a win-win for citizens and police departments in every community.”