Zwicker, Benson & Barclay Bill to Designate Safe Areas for Online Marketplace Transactions Approved by Assembly

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday advanced legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Arthur Barclay to have police departments establish safe areas with video surveillance for residents to conduct internet purchase transactions.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee and will now be considered for a vote by the full Assembly.  “Searching for the best deal on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace is widely popular today,” said Zwicker (D- Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). “Unfortunately, meeting up for these purchases are not always safe for residents. Establishing safe, well-lit and surveilled areas outside police stations for these transactions will keep residents safe.”

The bill (A-1522) allows municipal and county police departments to establish designated safe areas which may be used by members of the public to conduct sales transactions for items listed on classified websites, such as craigslist.  “While online marketplace users are encouraged to meet in public places, this bill takes it a step further,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “A public awareness campaign for safe, designated places will help residents make safer decisions when choosing a place to pick up or sell goods.”  

This is an effort to reduce the risk of crime associated with purchases arranged through Craigslist and other online marketplaces,” said Barclay (D-Camden, Gloucester).  “By allowing police departments to reserve safe areas at police stations, we reduce the potential for criminal activity during these transactions and provide protection for residents.”

Under the bill, municipal and county police departments would be allowed to install a video camera capable of recording a clear image of the designated safe area at all times the area is made available to the public.  The local police departments, the bill specifies, and their members would not be responsible for regulating the sales transactions or civilly liable for crimes or offenses committed by participants to the sales transactions.

The bill also requires the Attorney General to notify chief law enforcement officers that they are permitted to establish a designated safe area on municipal and county police department property. The Attorney General would also be required to conduct a public awareness campaign, utilizing the Internet and any other available resources, to inform the general public about designated safe areas established throughout the state.