Lawrence Township creates safe exchange zone


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Lawrence Township has joined the growing list of towns that provide a safe place where residents can complete transactions that began online or in other marketplaces, under an ordinance approved by the Township Council last week.

A “safe exchange zone” in the parking lot between the municipal building and the police/municipal court building has been set aside for residents to complete in-person, private transactions.

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There are some exceptions to the goods that may be purchased, sold or exchanged. The sale or purchase of a car or truck, weapons, illegal contraband, alcohol and anything that will not fit inside a 10-foot by 10-foot parking space will not be permitted.

While the township will not provide police officers or other municipal employees to witness a transaction, each transaction may be recorded by the police department’s surveillance cameras.

The proximity of police officers and the video surveillance system is intended to provide a safe place to conduct business and “to increase the public’s peace of mind when engaging in such transactions with unfamiliar individuals within the safe exchange zone,” according to the ordinance.

Nevertheless, the ordinance states that the township “makes no guarantees, assurances or promises as to the safety or security of any in-person transactions” that occur in Lawrence, or to the availability of the parking lot at any specific time.

The ordinance encourages residents to meet the individual with whom they are making a transaction during daylight hours and to carry a cell phone in case of an emergency. Friends and family members should be told of one’s intention to meet another person to carry out the transaction.

The ordinance warns against inviting strangers to one’s home or to agree to meet at the stranger’s home. If anyone refuses to conduct business in the “safe exchange zone,” the ordinance states that the transaction should be reconsidered.

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