Smith County designates 'safe zones' for public exchanges

Published: Dec. 3, 2015 at 6:42 PM CST
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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Released by the Smith County Commissioners Court:

Smith County commissioners on Tuesday voted to add two more safety zones in the county, offering citizens a safe place to make quick, one-time exchanges.

The Smith County Emergency Operations Center west parking lot, at 11325 Spur 248 in Tyler; and the Precinct 5 Constable's Office, at 2616 S. Main St. in Lindale, are now safe zones for people meeting to sell things to others off of Craigslist and other similar social media sites.

Precinct 5 Constable Kenneth Bibby said sometimes those kinds of meetings can become volatile and he hopes the presence of law enforcement can help with those exchanges. He said his staff is in and out of the office and is sometimes there during evening hours and on the weekends.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said he recommended the two additional safe zones because of requests made by the public. The law enforcement sites in Tyler and Lindale have security cameras monitoring the property at all times.

Commissioners Terry Phillips and Cary Nix urged residents to use caution and common sense when setting up meeting times after hours, when the offices may not be staffed.

The new safe zones are a continuation of what Precinct 2 Constable Andy Dunklin began offering at his office, at 15405 Highway 155 South in Noonday in April.

In light of a robbery during a Craigslist exchange, Dunklin decided to provide his parking lot for private, legal exchanges conducted through online services. Dunklin said at the time that he would not allow people to use the inside of his building, and he wanted the exchanges to be held during business hours, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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

"The public is seeking that kind of place," Dunklin said. "We do want people to feel safe."

"I appreciate law enforcement being proactive and trying to protect our citizens," Commissioner Jeff Warr said.

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