Merrill becomes Northwoods pioneer in creating safe haven for online based exchanges
Thanks to the joint efforts of a city alderman and public safety officials, those interested in online based purchases will now have a safe, secure area in Merrill to conduct their transactions.
Tuesday morning, the city’s first ever “Internet Purchase Exchange Location” became a reality as Merrill Police Chief Ken Neff, Lincoln County Sheriff Jeff Jaeger and Merrill 7th District Alderman Rob Norton gathered in the sheriff’s office’s east side parking lot to erect the a sign officially designating the area.
The city’s Health and Safety Committee unanimously approved the concept at its Feb. 22 meeting, after Norton raised the topic for discussion and consideration.
“With our country moving forward in the informational age, we need to make an effort keep our community members safe as they buy and sell items online,” Norton explains. “It’s becoming more of a trend to conduct business and exchanges on social media and sites such as E-Bay and Craigslist. But as we conduct this type of business, it’s not exactly safe to have complete strangers come to our residences or meeting strangers in public parking lots. That is why I brought this idea forward.
“We never want to put our residents in an unsafe situation with complete strangers,” Norton added. “Safe zones are basically areas set up which are usually inside or near law enforcement agencies, and under constant surveillance. I feel there is a need for us to have something like this locally, rather than take a chance on a tragic event occurring.”
An example of such tragedy Norton mentions is a recent incident which occurred in Butler County, Ohio.
“A 17-year-old boy was attacked and beaten to death while selling video games as part of a transaction set up online,” Norton adds. “In an effort to prevent any future incidents, the Butler County sheriff opened an Internet Exchange Safe Zone in the lobby of the sheriff’s department.”
According to Merrill city administrator Dave Johnson, upon passage of the measure, the sign was ordered immediately.
“It’s important to have a place for people to conduct this type of business without fear of criminal activity,” Johnson added. “This type of activity is less likely to happen in the well-lit parking lot of a sheriff’s office, located on a very busy street and constantly monitored by cameras. I honestly can’t think of a better place for this. The city would like to thank Sheriff Jeff Jaeger and his office for their cooperation.”
“I didn’t think it would come together this fast,” Norton said, “but I am very thankful for the support of my fellow committee members as well as the full support of both chief Neff and sheriff Jaeger.”
As Johnson alluded to, the new Internet Purchase Exchange Location is located in the east end parking lot of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office located at 1104 E. First St. in Merrill; between the Lincoln County Jail and Walgreens.
The area will be accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and is under constant video surveillance.
The area is just the fourth of its kind in the state, joining Hortonville, Beaver Dam and Lake Delton.