At least 40 people in Charlotte have been robbed while trying to complete online sales in person since January, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has teamed up with a chain of convenience stores in its latest attempt to make sales safer.
Starting next week, 14 QuikTrip stores around the city will have designated “safe exchange” spots, including two parking spots for buyers and sellers and 24-hour surveillance cameras, which are recorded and monitored by QuikTrip employees.
“If people want to do bad things, they don’t want to be seen doing bad things,” CMPD Sgt. Brian Scharf said, so the cameras and signs at the new locations should serve as a deterrent.
CMPD patrol officers will also make random checks at the 14 QuikTrips, though police said they won’t referee sales.
Potential robbers are attracted to the large amounts of cash and valuable items often involved in these sales, police said.
One case, in June, ended in tragedy – Zachary Finch, a 21-year-old college baseball player, was killed while involved with the sale of a phone on an app called letgo. Three people have been charged with his murder.
“Zachary did everything right,” his mother Tara Finch said Thursday. “It was the middle of the day, it was 1:30 in the afternoon on Father’s Day, in a public park. Zachary was just trusting and he trusted the wrong people.”
Finch coached a Little League team and was one year away from finishing college at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky, where he had a full academic scholarship, his mother said.
In August, the Finches’ hometown of Pembroke Pines, Fla., passed an ordinance named after Zachary to designate safe exchange zones, and his mother said the Kentucky town where he went to college is working on something similar.
“Zach was all about helping people, so if this safe exchange zone helps other people, Zach will be smiling down on us, I’m sure,” his mother said.
Scharf shared the standard tips for completing an online sale in person: Don’t go alone, tell someone where you’re going, never agree to switch locations at the last second and trust any bad feeling about the meet-up.
If you do end up encountering a robber, Scharf said, the best way to stay safe is to cooperate and then call the police as soon as possible.
CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano said the department is interested in partnering with other businesses to expand the program in the future. For now, the participating QuikTrips are scattered around the city, including on East Woodlawn Road near Interstate 77, near the intersection of The Plaza and East W.T. Harris Boulevard and on South Boulevard near East Arrowood Road.
Safe exchange zones
Here are the QuikTrip locations in Charlotte where safe exchange zones will open next week:
127 East Woodlawn Road
6721 Albemarle Road
7205 The Plaza
2326 Sandy Porter Road
11230 North Tryon St.
7115 South Blvd.
3025 Wilkinson Blvd.
116 Clanton Road
3206 Eastway Drive
5209 Central Ave.
4937 Sunset Road
4200 Brookshire Blvd.
5708 North Tryon St.
10910 Golf Links Drive