REDWOOD CITY — San Mateo County leaders are set Thursday to unveil what is believed to be the Bay Area’s first county-backed “safe exchange zone” for online buyers and sellers.
Comprised of two specially marked parking spaces at the Maple Street Correctional Center in Redwood City, the area will offer a more secure place to complete transactions — all within view of high-definition cameras that are monitored around the clock by jail personnel.
“This is a 21st century solution for a 21st century problem,” said county Supervisor David Canepa, who championed a similar effort in Daly City when he was vice mayor.
The Daly City exchange zone was created at City Hall in response to the 2013 homicide of Ikenna Uwakah. The 22-year-old resident was shot to death when he went to San Francisco to sell a video game console he had advertised on social media.
While so-called “Craigslist robberies” still occur in the city, none have been reported in the exchange zone, according to police.
Canepa pitched the idea of a county-backed zone to Sheriff Carlos Bolanos, who agreed to provide the parking spaces and cover the “nominal cost” of signs designating one for sellers and one for buyers, said Detective Sal Zuno, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
“The exchange zone’s goal is to provide a safe space for members of our community to meet and conduct transactions while giving them a sense of security,” Bolanos said in a statement.
There is no way to guarantee every transaction will be trouble free. But the chances of something going awry are much lower than they would be at a home or business, Canepa said. And it doesn’t hurt that the Redwood City Police Department is located just across the street.
“Who wants to rob someone outside a correctional facility with a police station next door?” Canepa said.
“One would have to be really foolish to commit a crime there,” said Zuno, adding that deputies also can be summoned via an intercom located about 30 feet from the exchange zone.
Given the increasing popularity of online marketplaces, Canepa said he would like to see every city and county in the Bay Area follow suit and introduce their own exchange zones.
“There’s a need for this,” he said. “People are making online purchases on the regular. They need to at least have the peace of mind that they can do these transactions in an area that is safe.”