Buying holiday gifts from strangers online? Police departments can help you stay safe

(Photo: WKRN)

GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – Recently awarded the title of “Nicest Place in America” by Reader’s Digest, Gallatin bills itself as a “power suburb.”

The city’s police department said an emphasis on safety is part of what helps set the Sumner County city of 36,000 apart from other locations across the country.

One example can be found in the department’s parking lot along W. Franklin Street at Enlow Street. A bright yellow sign that reads “Safe Place” designates a spot for people to complete transactions from online websites, like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

The police department’s parking lot is well-lit, under constant surveillance and regularly patrolled by officers.

It can be used for transactions from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Friday and anytime on the weekends.

“A lot of people do their Christmas shopping, holiday shopping online, and a lot of people, they purchase from other people that they don’t know,” Janell Wilson with the Gallatin Police Department told News 2.

Wilson continued, “We’ve always been brought up, don’t trust anybody, and that’s not even from a law enforcement standpoint. You don’t trust anybody so why would you go to a place that you don’t know, somebody’s house you don’t know, and put yourself and your family at risk.”

Gallatin police launched the concept in 2015, making the department one of the first in the area to do this; however, many other police departments in Middle Tennessee have similar setups, including Lebanon, Portland, Smyrna, Spring Hill, Greenbrier, Metro-Nashville and Vanderbilt University.

As for how many people have used these parking lots for exchanges, that’s impossible to figure out because many departments, including Gallatin, said they do not keep track.

“We don’t go back and check the videos unless something was to go wrong or there was some sort of a complaint. Thank goodness we have not had any situations like that,” Wilson said.

Due to the increased security, many of these “Safe Place” locations are also used as a spot for child custody exchanges.