Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster, along with town officials, public safety offices, the leadership team, and staff, hosted a ceremony on February 27 to officially introduce the department’s Safe Exchange Zone (SEZ).
The SEZ is located in the parking lot behind the Municipal Building at 311 South Pollard Street in downtown Vinton, where the Vinton Police Department is also located. It is across the street from the Vinton Fire and EMS Department and the Vinton First Aid Crew.
Foster described it as a “designated area, which is under 24-hour camera surveillance, for child custody exchanges, meeting persons for Internet sales (e.g. Craigslist), or any other lawful activity where one might need to briefly interact with someone they don’t know.
“If a person doesn’t want to meet you at the Safe Exchange Zone, you probably don’t want to buy what they’re selling,” said Foster.
“Person-to-person, private party transactions are becoming much more commonplace in our society,” noted Foster. “The sale of concert and sporting event tickets, at-home business transactions, and things such as online ‘yard sales’ are offering more opportunities for criminals to victimize members of our community. We hope the Safe Exchange Zone will minimize that opportunity.”
Foster said that Safe Exchange Zones are a growing trend nationwide. One impetus for the zones was increasing problems with counterfeit tickets being sold for concert and sporting events.
Although the Safe Exchange Zone is located in Vinton, Foster says it is available to anyone in the Roanoke Valley.
The SEZ will be monitored by police personnel during normal business hours and recorded by high-definition camera 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The camera tape is maintained for 30 days.
Citizens may also request an officer be present during transactions, if needed.
Foster said that the location was chosen because “there is always someone coming and going from the police, Fire/EMS, and First Aid Crew sites.”
Foster emphasized that the establishment of the SEZ resulted from the joint efforts of the Vinton Police, Vinton public safety agencies, and the Vinton Public Works Department, whose employees marked off, striped, and painted the zone a bright green. Signage and stenciling was created by Sav’ On Signs in Vinton.
Foster said the Town of Vinton is “excited and proud to offer the service to the citizens as part of its community policing focus.”
Anyone with questions is encouraged to contact the Vinton Police Department at 983-0617 or at vintonpolice.com.