By Tamas Mondovics

Craigslist sales gone bad, some ending in robberies, continue to make headlines countywide and beyond, including the reported four robberies this year alone in eastern Hillsborough County that were connected to transactions involving items advertised on the Web or other classified ads.

A quick Google search of “Craigslist sales ending in robberies” revealed nearly 70 million results putting things in perspective for both buyer and seller.

To help avoid being victims of such crimes, the Hillsborough County Sheriff Office is now offering the use of its four patrol district office parking lots for residents looking for safe spaces to conduct transactions arranged online.

According to HCSO spokesperson Larry McKinnon, while there has not been any recent increase in these type of robberies, there continues to be a sustained amount throughout the county.

“Operation Safe Sale is a program in response by the department to safety threats for those engaging in cash transactions, and those arranged online, such as on Craigslist,” McKinnon said, adding that the program will undoubtedly deter anyone with bad intentions.

The effort is by no means a new idea. Residents have been encouraged to make such deals in a public place, such as the lobby of the police department or the parking lot where it’s a secure and safe environment or where there are more people around.

To further explain Operation Safe Sale, HCSO Sgt. Detective Steve Lewis emphasized that currently Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office District parking lots are often used for parental exchange of children involved in civil custody issues.

“It only makes sense to offer up the parking lots for these Web or classified ad transactions,” Lewis said. “After all the parking lots are well-lit, offer videotape coverage as well as provide a safe environment where deputies come and go. Why not use them for Craigslist transactions?”

The four patrol districts “Safe Sale” locations are as follows:

-Patrol District 1

14102 N. 20th St., Tampa

-Patrol District 2

2310 N. Falkenburg Rd., Tampa

-Patrol District 3

7202 Gunn Hwy., Tampa

-Patrol District 4

508 33rd St. SE, Ruskin

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