No 'safe zone' in Tyler for Craigslist meet-ups

No 'safe zone' in Tyler for Craigslist meet-ups
(Source: KLTV Staff)
(Source: KLTV Staff)

Tyler police say that a supposed Craigslist meet up ended in a man being robbed in a parking lot Thursday night.

Police say around 6:30 p.m., they responded to an aggravated robbery of an individual call in the parking lot of the Whataburger at 5003 Troup Highway.

A male victim told police that he was robbed by a man he had been talking with on Craigslist. He says when he met the "seller", the man approached the vehicle and showed him he was armed with a handgun.

"The suspect basically said 'Have you got the money for the phone?' The victim said 'Yes here it is.' At that point he pulled out a gun and put it to his head and says give me your money," said Don Martin, Tyler Police Spokesperson.

Martin says each month they get about 5 cases of some theft or crime during an in-person meeting for an online purchase.

But in this case, Martin says there are a few things that could have been done differently.

"Maybe one: have another person with you for safety, two, maybe get to know this person a little bit more or three, say no we're going to do this inside the restaurant," Martin says.

The suspect then took an undisclosed amount of cash from the victim and fled in a vehicle. The victim was not injured during the incident, police say.

The suspect is described as a black male, about 6 feet tall and with a thin build. He fled the scene in a silver four-door car.

Police remind citizens to be cautious when buying and selling items online. Remember to only meet in public places and to take the extra steps in identifying the individuals they are planning to meet.

Emily Gilley says she uses facebook and avoids Craigslist because she can monitor who she's dealing with.

"I don't typically buy from people that I don't have mutual friends with so it tends to be someone I know distantly or personally," Gilley says.

Gilley used the Tyler Online Garage Sale to promote her actual garage sale on Friday.

But she says when it comes time to meet someone face to face she's very cautious of her surroundings.

"I'll go to either Target, Wal-Mart or the mall so that there is cameras and people around and security," Gilley says.

Craigslist updated their safety page this week encouraging users to make exchanges at local police stations.

But Martin says the Tyler station has not been labeled a safe zone.

"We've had a little bit of discussion about it but we haven't really implemented that our stated that," Martin says. "More than likely we would hope that it wouldn't happen in our parking lot, but we don't have officers out here and not every bit of the parking lot is controlled by a camera."

Martin says online transactions should happen in a public place, but they don't promote any one specific place.

Police say they do have surveillance video from the parking lot but they were unable to confirm the suspect's identity.

If anyone has information about this case, please call Tyler police at 903-531-1000 or Tyler/Smith County Crime Stoppers at 903-597-CUFF.

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