OTTAWA — Putnam County Sheriff Brian Siefker announced the creation of a safe exchange zone Tuesday.
The zone is a few parking spots in the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office parking lot at 1035 Heritage Trail, Ottawa. The parking spots are well lighted and under camera surveillance, Siefker said. The cameras are set up so the license plates of each vehicle can be seen and the exchange can also be monitored in real time from the dispatch room, he said.
“We just wanted people to have a sense of security,” Siefker said. “You see in the paper how people are robbed or threatened when they meet in gas station parking lots or Walmart.”
The safe exchange zone is the sheriff office’s way to provide people with a more secure place to child custody exchanges and online marketplace deals, Siefker said. Signs were made, and the office has ordered higher-quality cameras to monitor the happenings live.
If people still don’t feel secure, a deputy can be requested to monitor the exchange in person, he said.
“There is a phone in the lobby,” Siefker said. “They can call dispatch and someone will come out and meet with them.”
Crimes involving online marketplace transactions are not frequent, but Siefker hopes the zone will eliminate it entirely.
The Allen County Sheriff’s Office does not have a formal safe exchange zone, said Sgt. Andre McConnahea, Allen County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer.
“We’ve told people they can do exchanges safely in our office or out in front for bigger items,” he said. “We just don’t have the parking space available to set up a formal location.”
Since the department was opened for exchanges, reports of those robberies have gone down, McConnahea said. It’s been at least five years since the Allen County Sheriff’s Office has received a report of this type of robbery.
Auglaize County also does not have a formal zone.
“If it’s a special circumstance, we’ll make arrangements to do it but we don’t have anything specific set up just yet,” said Auglaize County Sheriff Allen Solomon.
Solomon explained a resident may ask for help if the other party seems untrustworthy.
The department has considered the issue.
“It’s possible we might implement something in the future,” Solomon said. “We’d rather stay where we are now so we can make certain no one is getting scammed.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362