This one’s a little odd in that, while the major Chicago TV news stations picked up the story, there’s been nary a peep about it out here. It may not be the most earth shattering event, but whenever someone comes up with a simple yet proactive solution to a growing scourge, it’s worth mentioning.
And the scourge in question is that Craigslist transactions seem to be fraught with all kinds of impending peril. For the uninitiated, Craigslist is an online classified service where folks can list their wares or services for free in hopes of luring a willing buyer.
“Luring” is the right word too, because if you’re not being ripped off by a seller trying to pull a fast one, then you may well be set up for an armed robbery at an out-of-the-way locale. Avail yourself of a quick Google search on the subject and you’ll see just what I mean.
But despite my personal prohibition against venturing into that cyber wild west, folks in search of a deal choose to resort to Craigslist all the time. When it does go wrong, they immediately turn to their local police force who, given the ephemeral nature of the medium and the scammers, never have much luck setting things straight.
Enter Chief Jeff Swoboda and the Elgin Police Department who just announced they’re making the EPD lobby available as a de facto Craigslist meeting place with the parking lot to be used for the bigger items.
This is one of those eminently simple solutions where, upon hearing it, you slap yourself in the forehead and say, “why didn’t I think of that.”
Think about it! It stops the crime before it starts because if some budding entrepreneur isn’t willing to meet you at the station, then it’s probably a red flag. Not only that, but by preventing a crime before it occurs, it takes the investigative burden off Elgin police officers who can now focus on more pressing issues. That dynamic trickles down to the taxpayer too!
So you really gotta give the EPD credit for this one.
An interesting aside here is most people don’t realize that, far more than passing out free content or all the Internet news competitors, the primary reason for our steep newspaper decline is Craigslist.
You see, those printed classified sections were an effective monopoly that more than paid the print media’s basic bills. Anything else a newspaper managed to make was icing on the cake. Ah! But the advent of online ads dried up that formerly bottomless well and is the proximate cause for the wholesale staff cuts that killed content and most investigative reporting.
So what I don’t understand is, given the manner in which Craigslist has “evolved,” why newspapers don’t start fighting back. I’d start with a marketing campaign touting the value and credibility of a paid ad while noting that perhaps having to go to the police station to complete an online deal really says it all.
Just a thought.
Meanwhile, let’s all bask in the glory of a simple solution that works on so many levels!