City of Charlottetown Police Services has established a safe area for transactions between people buying or selling items from online ads through sites such as Kijiji or Facebook Shop N’ Swap groups. The eWatch Safe Exchange Zone, as it has been dubbed by Police, is located in a well-lit, high traffic area in front of the Police station at 10 Kirkwood Drive. It consists of two parking spaces, signage and 24-hour video surveillance, thanks to the Charlottetown Police Services’ eWatch video camera network.
The idea for the safe exchange zone in Charlottetown came from the City’s Youth Retention Advisory Board. It was one of the recommendations in the Board’s report to Council in October 2016.
"We made a commitment to our youth that we would provide more opportunities for them to make suggestions on how this city could continue to be great and a promise that we would listen to what they had to say," said Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee. "This initiative is just one of the recommendations from the Youth Retention Report that we are moving forward on, and we hope to have more announcements, in partnership with the Youth Retention Advisory Board, in the near future."
The eWatch Safe Exchange Zone is available to anyone conducting legal online transactions every day, although parking will be limited until evenings after 4 p.m. and on weekends. Though the Police won’t be getting involved in the transactions or verifying the authenticity of items, they are nearby if something happens.
"The idea with this safe exchange zone is add an element of security to transactions that are happening regularly," said Councillor Kevin Ramsay, Chair of the Youth Retention Advisory Board. "What we heard from youth is that they don’t always feel safe making these kind of exchanges. When they approached us about it, it just made sense that Charlottetown Police step in and help out. Other cities have tried this and been successful, so it can’t hurt to offer the service here."
Police are still encouraging those completing online transactions in person to bring a friend or family member with them and inspect items before committing to buying. It’s also recommended that people not accept cheques or an e-transfer from strangers.
"We’re not guaranteeing that people will be happy with the product they buy nor are we taking on any liability for the transactions that will be conducted in this space, but we will be a presence and we will be near to help people feel safer when making transactions," said Charlottetown Police Chief Paul Smith. "We continue to build on our eWatch video camera surveillance network and since those cameras are already in place, we are able to offer this exchange zone to the public with very minimal expense."
For the members of the Youth Retention Advisory Board, Zac Murphy, Alex Youland, and Laura MacDonald, the adoption of the safe exchange zone is a big win for youth in Charlottetown.
"For us, as a board, it was great to have meetings with City council and the Police department and have them be so receptive to a lot of the ideas and recommendations that came out of the Youth Retention Report," said Board member Zac Murphy. "In regards to the safe exchange zone, people aren’t always comfortable with someone going to their home or going to a stranger’s home if they are selling or buying something online. This gives people another option when it comes to completing those types of transactions and hopefully, it will make them feel more comfortable in doing so. It’s also an excellent form of passive policing. Our hope is that it will make an impact at minimal cost to the public."
Signage for the eWatch Safe Exchange Zone was donated by Sign Craft, in support of community and youth initiatives.
For more information on the Youth Retention Report, visit: www.charlottetown.ca/pdfs2016/Chtown-YouthRetention-Report2016.pdf
Photo cutline: (from left) Councillor Kevin Ramsay, Chair of the Charlottetown Youth Retention Advisory Board; Zac Murphy, member of the Youth Retention Advisory Board; Cst. Trevor Monaghan, representing Charlottetown Police Services; and, Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee posing with the signage for eWatch Safe Exchange Zone.
City of Charlottetown