Police urge use of safe exchange zones due to increase in vehicle, ATV thefts in Dayton

Dayton police are warning the public to be alert when selling a vehicle or ATV online after seeing an increase in thefts in the area.

Lt. Mark Ponichtera encouraged people to use the safe exchange zones outside police stations when attempting to sell items. The city has four safe exchange zones located at 951 Washington St., 417 E. Helena St., 2721 Wayne Ave. and 248 Salem Ave. They’re manned 24 hours a day.

The department saw an increase in thefts during possible sales last year, and the issue is continuing to rise this year.

“People are coming in to sell ATVs, vehicles, things of that nature,” Ponichtera said. “They’re led to a location and then led to a second location, or maybe the social media profile doesn’t match the original person they thought they were communicating with, and they end up being the victim of a crime.”

Some thieves will ask to test drive a vehicle and flat out steal it, he said.

“Sometimes there’s violent crime involved and some other times there’s fake money,” Ponichtera said. “Apparently you can go online and buy what’s called movie money. It looks real but it’s in fact not real.”

The lieutenant didn’t have the exact number of thefts but said there have been dozens so far this year.

If someone wants to buy a vehicle posted online or on social media, Ponichtera encouraged people to use a safe exchange zone.

“If you are reaching out to someone and you say, ‘Hey, let’s go meet at the police station.’ And they go, ‘No, I don’t want to go there.’ Then maybe that’s a little bit of a red flag,” he said.

Other red flags include a person not matching the photo or description of who they were originally communicating with or a person who tries to change the meeting location multiple times.

“One of the key indicators that it could be a problem is if the person is offering extra money if you’ll deliver the item to them,” Ponichtera said. “That’s where we’re seeing a lot of the problem”

He said people should use common sense while meeting up with someone to buy or sell an item.

“If it doesn’t feel right don’t do it,” he explained. “Just be safe.”

Before making a sale, Ponichtera said people should determine where the transaction will take place and how the buyer is going to pay. A seller can check cash against some of their own money to make sure it doesn’t look or feel different.

Test drives are common during vehicle sales, so a seller can ask for a form of collateral, such as the person’s ID, to keep until the test drive is over.

Some of the victims are from out of state or outside of Montgomery County and drive for hours to meet up with a potential buyer.

“Because of that they’ve felt they’ve invested so much time and energy in it, they just think, ‘Well I’m already here. I might as well get this done.’ And that’s where they get drawn in and become a victim,” Ponichtera said. “We just don’t want to see that happen to people.”

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