In response to recent incidents involving people being robbed at gunpoint after scheduling meetings using online marketplaces such as Craigslist, Sumter Police Department officials are urging residents to be persistent in setting up safe exchanges.
According to the department, the robberies took place during the day near Memorial Stadium, at Dillon Park and in a parking lot on South Pike East earlier this month. No one was injured during any incident.
The two suspects involved are described as black males in their 20s. One of them is about 6 feet tall, and the other is described as being shorter than him.
To promote safety, the police department has dedicated an area of its parking lot along Harvin Street to be used as a meeting location for exchanges.
"We want people to use the parking lot," said Tonyia McGirt, public information officer for the department.
There is a heavy law enforcement presence, and the location is out in the open, she said.
Lt. Bill Lyons, of the department's investigations division, said the seller should be the person to dictate how the sale will proceed and that the two parties should meet at a place of the seller's choosing.
It should raise red flags if the buyer repeatedly attempts to push back the meeting time or change the location, he said.
Buyers should be wary if the seller suggests to meet at an odd times, or at a secluded location.
Be persistent, Lyons said.
He said if someone really wants to sell or buy an item, meeting at a public and secured location should not be an issue.
Criminals have been using the internet as a platform to commit crimes for years, but the use is increasing, Lyons said.
McGirt said the goal of giving out this information is for people to take caution when engaging in exchanges - not to discourage them.
Anyone with information about the three armed robberies is asked to call Sumter Police Department at (803) 436-2700. Information can be given anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.
The Sumter County Sheriff's Office parking lot, 1281 N. Main St. (U.S. 15 North), is also a designated safety zone.