There were more than 45 homicides connected to Craigslist postings between 2009 and 2014, including Philip Markoff in Boston, known as “the Craigslist killer.” Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews hopes to prevent similar events here.

CHIPLEY - The rise of Craigslist and the easy social media or other online sale of items has been accompanied by a dark side — the tense moments when strangers must meet to complete the deal.

Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews hopes to ensure the safety of sellers and purchasers of such transactions and has announced the implementation of "Safe Exchange Zones," designated parking spaces located just off the sheriff's office Third Street entrance.

The parking spaces are under 24-hour video surveillance and have been registered with www.safedeal.zone, a national safe zone location data base.

"Those of you who have family and friends who do not live in our area, please share this website with them so that they can find a designated area as well," urged Sheriff Crews. "Safe Exchange Zones are currently being implemented throughout our country, and WCSO is excited to join in on yet another way to serve and protect our citizens. We encourage everyone to utilize the area designated in our parking lot to not only exchange internet purchases but for child custody exchanges as well."

Officers do not get involved or actively monitor the transaction, but the surveillance cameras give those making the exchange added backup.

Although the number of Craigslist and other online transactions conducted safely is in the millions, the meet-ups that go wrong have attracted plenty of attention. According to an analysis by news organization Law Street Media, there were more than 45 homicides connected to Craigslist postings between 2009 and 2014, including Philip Markoff in Boston, known as “the Craigslist killer.”

Just on March 26, 2017, a Caroline, County, Virginia resident's attempt to sell video games over Facebook led to a robbery at gunpoint. The victim told authorities they responded to a Facebook post from a person interested in purchasing a gaming system and games - but when the parties met up, the would-be purchaser pulled a handgun and demanded the gaming system and games, along with the victim’s cell phone.

Sheriff Crews says there have not been any such incidents reported here - and he would like to keep it that way.

"Purchase exchanges, and in some circumstances, child custody exchanges should be in a place that will give people a sense of safety and reassurance that assistance is close by if needed," he said. "I hope our community will feel that this designated area is a benefit to our county and utilize it for their safety."