City police creates public ‘Safe Exchange Zone’

The city police recently added parking spots safe for residents to use during exchanges with strangers. (Ashlyn Korienek/ News Advocate)

The city police recently added parking spots safe for residents to use during exchanges with strangers. (Ashlyn Korienek/ News Advocate)

MANISTEE — For those who want to feel more secure with personal exchanges whether it’s with a stranger or not, the Manistee City Police Department has the solution.

The city police recently established a “Safe Exchange Zone” in front of the police department at 70 Maple St., right behind City Hall. Signs with parking spaces are located in front of the zone for public use.

The two parking spaces are intended for the public to use during all exchanges, such as trading purchased items or switching children between parents or family members.

Tim Kozal, Manistee public safety director, said two new cameras were installed at the location to monitor activity at all times.

“We have two new cameras installed in this area so we have that to fall back on after hours,” Kozal said. “Hopefully, it will give people that extra layer of security in their minds.”

Police stations across the nation are using these zones.

Numerous other law enforcement agencies have similar exchange spots. Local counties like Mason County Sheriff’s Office and Oceana County Sheriff’s Office have similar surveillance systems.

“We never had coverage of this area before,” Kozal said. “We encourage people to come by and do their exchanges here.”

Online purchasing has been on the rise in recent years, especially with the use of websites like Craigslist or Facebook garage sale pages. Kozal said this space should reduce the possibility of a bad exchange.

“With Craigslist, there have been robberies with sales… if someone does not want to meet here, then I would be wondering if that’s the type of purchase I would want to be making,” Kozal said.

The spaces come with more security for those who are dealing with constant parent/child exchanges, as well.

“On the child custody issues the question comes up is ‘where can I do this safely’,” Kozal said. “You always have two parties involved and you’re going to have two different stories of might have occurred while now that it’s on video, we actually have something to fall back on.”

Funding for both the signs and camera is derived from the police department’s budget through the Manistee general fund. The idea was brought to the city manager, Thad Taylor, and the department was given the go ahead to finalize the project.

“This started a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “We partnered with Amor Sign Studios to get the signs printed.”

All residents are encouraged to use the spaces, at any time of day. The Manistee City Police Department warns others to be vigilant about making exchanges with strangers or anyone who poses as a risk to their safety.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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