Florida police seek to stop Craigslist crimes

The growing number of crimes and attacks related to online classifieds has states like Florida seeking ways to make these transactions safer.

2 min read

Karl Trenker recovers from gunshot wounds he received during a transaction for a Craigslist purchase. CBS News

Everyday millions of people buy and sell items on the Internet. Thousands of these transactions are between private citizens and, in some cases, can be dangerous.

On Wednesday, a pregnant woman in Colorado was attacked and her fetus killed when she went to buy baby clothes from someone advertising on Craigslist. The growing nature of this type of crime has states like Florida trying ways to make these transactions safer.

Karl Trenker spent nearly 30 years in the Marines, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and never took a bullet until he tried to sell a gold necklace on Craigslist. He was shot four times in Deerfield Beach, Florida, three years ago. The bullets hit him in the back, shoulder, abdomen and pelvis.

Trenker lived to tell about it, but others weren't so lucky. Since 2009, at least 48 people have been killed in Craigslist related robberies. They include an elderly couple in Georgia buying a car; a father in Washington state selling a ring; and a Florida college student over an iPhone.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman said it's a shame that this became a crime trend. She believes safe havens are needed to protect Internet buyers and sellers.

"Go to a public place...that's likely to have cameras and security people," said Heyman. A police station is one option.

The Boca Raton Police Department has started advertising itself as a transaction site, and Police Chief Dan Alexander said he's already seen incidents drop.

"Just within the month of June we had four Craigslist related crimes," said Alexander. "We launched this campaign and since that time we haven't had any subsequent events."

This sign advertises a safe haven location for transactions initiated from Craigslist and other online marketplaces. CBS News

His campaign includes YouTube videos to alert the public about the dangers and to tell them that police stations are safer places for such transactions.

"If their intent is bad they're going to say no, not interested," said Heyman. "It's not going to present that opportunity."

Florida lawmakers are hoping to establish Craigslist safe haven programs in every county in the state. The sheriff's office in Jacksonville is set to be next to roll out the program.

This story originally posted as "Police plan aims to prevent Craigslist attacks" on CBSNews.com.