Craigslist Crime Roundup: buyers, sellers under attack
Craigslist first came to my attention last spring when Washington state resident James Sanders was shot to death in his own home during a home invasion.
Sanders had offered a diamond ring for sale on Craigslist for $1,050. A man and woman showed up at his home to buy the ring, but the male buyer pulled a gun, two additional suspects barged in to help, and Sanders was eventually shot to death in front of his wife and two young sons.
The Sanders murder made national headlines, which sent a warning signal about the dangers of private transactions through the media. Maybe some people took note. But not enough.
Rarely a week goes by without a report of a violent crime set up by a private transaction. Craigslist is not the culprit. Any other online classified ad system or traditional newspaper presents the common street thug with the same opportunity. Find a buyer or a seller, craft a plan, meet in a private place and walk away with free merchandise or cash. Sometimes the crime goes off without a hitch. Other times the victim isn’t so lucky.
Late last year a 26-year-old man was shot to death in Georgia after he tried to sell his motorcycle. He met the “buyer” at his home and the buyer killed him and took the bike.
Earlier this month a Michigan teenager was shot to death after posting a “wanted” ad for a cell phone. He invited the seller to his home and met him in the front yard. Moments later the seller shot the teen and stole the $95 he agreed to pay for the phone.
Please take note: In all three of the above crimes, the buyer and seller agreed to meet at the victim’s house, where the criminal could pull off the crime in relative privacy.
In yet another Craigslist case last week, a 27-year-old Wisconsin woman answered a help-wanted ad posted by a New York man for “domestic assistance.” The man tied her up, beat her, raped her and told her she was going to be his sex slave.
Private transactions are common in our economy. There’s no reason not to sell valuables you don’t want, and there’s no reason not to purchase used goods. In many circumstances, you can complete these transactions on sites like Ebay without interacting with the buyer or seller. When transactions require face-to-face contact, however, caution is required.
In all circumstances, use common sense personal protection techniques. Take someone with you, meet in daylight, in a public place, in open view of others. Crowded restaurants, open parking lots, local parks — anyplace where your transaction will be easily witnessed by lots of other people. Criminals are a lot less likely to go through with their plans if they know they will be caught.
Other types of transactions, such as service ads for “domestic assistance,” should be viewed with extreme suspicion. Maybe the poor guy does need help because he has no family, no friends and no service agencies to help out.
But maybe not.