The internet gives us the ability to purchase items from the comfort of our living room or bedroom and sometimes those purchases are between you and another person, with those sales consummated after an arranged meeting at a agreed-upon location.
There are also times when single or divorced parents must exchange children with the other parent as part of court requirements that youngsters spend a certain amount of time with both father and mother.
Both situations bring with it possible problems. Private internet sales sometimes offer crooks the chance to steal and rob unsuspecting victims of goods or money.
Child exchange situations can become volatile with the high emotions that can be raised up as parents must let go of their loved little ones.
In DeSoto County, there is now a place where those exchanges of goods and money, or child exchanges, may be done in a safe place.
In fact, in the shadow of the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department headquarters at 3091 Industrial Drive West in Hernando is about as safe a location as one can get.
Two parking spaces in the office front lot have been designated as “Safe Exchange Zones” and signs have been erected that reserve those spots by name with the phone number of the department dispatcher in case problems take place.
Sheriff’s Department Public Relations Officer Dep. Alex Coker Tuesday said the Safe Exchange Zones come on the request of Chief Deputy Macon Moore, who first learned of the program in California while involved in a training activity.
Moore thought the idea for a safe place to make these types of exchanges was a good one and charged Coker to move forward with the plan.
Coker also credits a signmaker with the signs that identify the spaces as Safe Exchange Zones.
“I gave the idea for the signs and the description of what I wanted to make happen to Ronny Howard with Hero Graphics (of Nesbit),” Coker said. “He put it together and graciously donated the signs and also came up with the design.”
Coker noted it can be uncomfortable to exchange merchandise in meetings arranged with strangers online at strange locations. With the Safe Exchange Zones, an officer is literally at the doorstep if needed.
Law enforcement constantly is visible in the area of the parking spaces, Coker said, noting, “We have our jail right down the street, so we have deputies and police officers from all over the county that are driving back and forth all the time.”
There are no requirements to use the zone and no prior reservation to the Sheriff’s Department is needed, but Coker adds just one thing people who use the area should remember.
“The only thing we ask is to be courteous and park there just long enough to make the purchase or the exchange and then leave,” said Coker. “Don’t use this as a regular parking spot. We can’t fine you for it but it’s just being respectful.”
Similar zones are used elsewhere across the country as a means of providing a secure area for meetings such as Coker suggests for the Safe Exchange Zones, that have now come to DeSoto County at the Hernando Sheriff’s Department headquarters.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.