Making selling items to strangers more safe: "neutral zones"
After many Quebec cities and municipalities, it is Gatineau's turn to adopt secure exchange zones, also known as "neutral zones". A popular concept already well established in Montreal, Quebec City and Laval, neutral zones are spaces under video surveillance, often located near a police station. The function of these zones is simple: to offer a secure and free place for citizens to exchange goods or to sell or buy an item. In addition, these secure exchange areas can be used by parents in joint custody when transferring children. The establishment of these designated areas also aims to reduce and prevent fraudulent transactions, in addition to deterring physical attacks.
Two neutral zones have been set up and in operation in Gatineau since December 8, 2022. The first zone is located in the parking lot of the Gatineau sector police station, at 590 boulevard Gréber. The second zone is located in the parking lot of the Hull sector police station, at 777 boulevard de la Carrière. Camera surveillance is in operation at both locations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The exchange zones, which are about the size of a car parking space, are identified by blue markings on the ground and the inscription "neutral meeting zone". Proud of this initiative, the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau (SPVG) nevertheless made a point of mentioning that these zones are not necessarily monitored by police forces at all times: "Although the cameras are functional, the images captured may not be observed in real time. Therefore, any citizen who feels his or her safety has been compromised should immediately call 9-1-1 for assistance," said the SPVG in a press release.
Holiday season: a time for scams
Before the holiday season, the SPVG issued a reminder of a few principles to keep in mind when selling or buying an item. It is important to favour public and busy places when exchanging goods if you do not have access to a secure exchange area. Ensuring the validity of payment or the condition of an item (especially if it is being sold at a discounted price) and having a minimum of information about the person you are planning to meet (beware of recently created profiles with little information on social media!) are also good practices for online transactions. Finally, the SPVG points out that, if in doubt, it is always possible to perform a reverse image search: this will allow you to determine whether the images used by an online ad have been reused or copied.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau (SPVG).
Photo caption: (top) Gatineau's two secure exchange zones (bottom) zone markings.