Edmonton Police Service is warning Edmontonians against a recent rise in robberies related to online buy-and-sell meetups in the city.
According to EPS, there have been a string of robberies involving cell phones offered for sale through online marketplaces such as Kijiji, Letgo, and Facebook.
“Last Thursday, March 26, at approximately 7 pm, a seller and a male posing as an interested buyer had arranged through Kijiji to meet up in a parking lot in the area of 144 Avenue and 75 Street to complete the sale of a cell phone,” said a release from EPS.
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“It was reported to police that the male suspect arrived at the meeting location, pepper sprayed the seller and fled on foot with the phone.”
Police said there have been numerous reports of this type of violence at these meetups, including two other cases where suspects pulled a knife on victims before stealing or attempting to steal their belongings.
Police have not yet determined whether the three incidents are related.
“We always advise caution when meeting up with strangers, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, I would question whether we need to be having these meetups at all,” said Det. Calvin Mah, EPS Northeast Division.
“There’s no easy way to examine and test the item and complete the sale while observing the two-meter distancing that is being asked of us by our health officials. If you must have a meetup, please do so in a safe, public location, such as the new EPS Safe Exchange Zone at our Southwest Division station, and practice social distancing and hand hygiene as recommended by AHS.”
The EPS Safe Exchange Zone, where individuals can exchange goods in two of the marked parking stalls at EPS Southwest Division, is located at 1351 Windermere Way.
“EPS members will not be available to assist citizens with negotiations of any property transactions at the Safe Exchange Zone,” says the release.
“If you must meet in person to arrange a sale, bring someone else with you, tell a family member or friend when and where you are doing the transaction and when you expect to be done. Police also advise that you avoid bringing large amounts of cash to a transaction, and pay attention to your instincts.
“If something feels off at any point, abandon the sale.”