Merrill’s Health and Safety Committee has unanimously approved the creation of an “Internet Exchange Safe Zone.” The concept was brought to the table by 7th District alderman Rob Norton.
“With our country moving forward in the informational age, we need to make an effort keep our community members safe as they buy and sell items online,” Norton explains. “It’s becoming more of a trend to conduct business and exchanges on social media and sites such as E-Bay and Craig’s List. But as we conduct this type of business, it’s not exactly safe to have complete strangers come to our residences or meeting strangers in public parking lots. That is why I brought this idea forward.
“We never want to put our residents in an unsafe situation with complete strangers,” Norton added. “Safe zones are basically areas set up which are usually inside or near law enforcement agencies, and under constant surveillance. I feel there is a need for us to have something like this locally, rather than take a chance on a tragic event occurring.”
An example of such tragedy Norton mentions is a recent incident which occurred in Butler County, Ohio.
“A 17-year-old boy was attacked and beaten to death while selling video games as part of a transaction set up online,” Norton adds. “In an effort to prevent any future incidents, the Butler County sheriff opened an Internet Exchange Safe Zone in the lobby of the sheriff’s department.”
According to city administrator Dave Johnson, upon passage of the measure, a sign has now been ordered. Once the sign is completed and posted, the city’s new “Internet Exchange Safe Zone” will be located in the parking lot of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office on the east side between the Lincoln County Jail and Walgreens. The area will be open for public use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, free of charge.
“It’s important to have a place for people to conduct this type of business without fear of criminal activity.” Johnson adds. “This type of activity is less likely to happen in the well lit parking lot of a sheriff’s office, located on a very busy street and is constantly monitored by cameras. I honestly can’t think of a better place for this. The city would like to thank Sheriff Jeff Jaeger and his office for their cooperation.”
“I didn’t think it would come together this fast!” Norton said, “but I am very thankful for the support of my fellow committee members as well as the full support of both chief Neff and sheriff Jaeger.”
The zone will be just the third of its kind in the state, aside from Hortonville and Lake Delton. Johnson expects the sign to be finished within the next couple of weeks.