Pennsylvania seeks safer ways to buy and sell online

    The 6th district vestibule in Philadelphia is a designated safe trade stations. (Jessica Kourkounis for Keystone Crossroads)

    The 6th district vestibule in Philadelphia is a designated safe trade stations. (Jessica Kourkounis for Keystone Crossroads)

    Allentown announces new safe trade station.

    Allentown’s Mayor Ed Pawlowski and Police Chief Keith Morris announced recently that people who are engaging in internet-based sales and purchases can now conduct their transactions at a designated parking spot in front of the police patrol station at 10th & Hamilton Street. The idea is to provide a place where people can buy or sell items with a heightened level of safety.

    Pawlowski described the 15 minute parking zone, which is under camera surveillance, as a “better layer of security”, with incidents of robberies, thefts, and even a murder having been reported from Craigslist related transactions in Allentown and throughout the country. These zones are known as safe trade stations.

    Peter Zollman, who founded The AIM Group, a firm that consults in the field of classified advertising, publishes and maintains a website devoted to this idea.

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    “More than a hundred killings have been linked to Craigslist over the past nine or 10 years. That is just a horrible, horrible statistic. It’s not the fault of Craigslist, but something has to be done to keep people safe when they’re doing transactions involving the internet, “said Zollman.

    The site lays out how to safely buy or sell items through Craigslist and has a list of all of the cities that have designated safe trade stations, primarily located at police stations or sheriff’s stations.

    “There have been at least five killings linked to Craigslist in Pennsylvania, one in Philly, one in Allentown and three others around the state,” said Zollman.

    There are 15 Pennsylvania listings on, including Philadelphia, where all 21 police district stations are available for such transactions. The PPD does not oversee the transaction, and they do not facilitate anything. It simply provides a safe location to conduct the exchange. But as Zollman puts it, “if you say to somebody, I’ll meet you at the police station for your safety and mine, and they’re willing to meet you there, that’s probably a good sign. If they are not willing to meet you there that’s probably a very bad sign and you should avoid the transaction.”

    Zollman’s firm does not advertise the website or profit from it but considers it a public service. The AIM group does not recruit or actively seek out new safe trade stations but Zollman says the list is “growing organically” and that it is a great community relations tool that provides safety at no additional cost.

    “Its really a way of preventing crime rather than fighting it afterwards,” he said.

    On it’s website, Craigslist says that overall there are very few crimes related to its transactions in light of the number of total interactions that take place. They have a page about personal safety and advise that people meet in public places when conducting Craigslist business.

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