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Buyer be wary

Goodhue County Meetup Spot. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Meetup Spot parking at Goodhue County Law Enforcement Center. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

So you've finally cleaned out the garage and found someone online to buy your old bicycle — but now comes the tough part: finding a safe place to meet.

"I prefer to meet at Caribou or Runnings. Someplace where there are a lot of people around," said Red Wing resident Jessica Wheeler.

Local police officers and Goodhue County sheriff's deputies know that relative strangers are meeting in-person to complete online sales, and those encounters can have dangerous or unwelcome results. To help keep Goodhue County residents safe, they've followed the lead of larger communities and created a fully monitored MeetUp Spot.

The Law Enforcement Center has had dedicated parking spots for meet ups in the past, but as of September 2017, a permanent video camera has been installed. The camera is pointed on the parking spots for added safety 24/7.

Police Chief Roger Pohlman said this location is also an ideal meeting space for parents and grandparents who share custody of minors.

Pohlman added that the camera's footage is kept on record for about 90 days. That's a big improvement on big box store parking lots, he said, where the video footage is more difficult to recover and often low-quality.

"When I saw that they had (created a MeetUp Spot) I was very happy," said Deb Reny, administrator of The Original Red Wing For Sale Group on Facebook.

Reny monitors the online transactions of more than 11,000 users and helps ensure that her users are as protected as possible. While she is a highly active administrator and enforces a number of useful rules, at the end of the day, she said, "All I can do is remove them from the group, but that's not going to get anybody's money back."

With the holidays coming up, Reny expects to see an increase in online sales of toys, snow blowers and Christmas trimmings.

To help buyers protect their investment, she advises that they meet in a public space with a camera and test the merchandise before handing over their money.

While Reny is supportive of this joint measure by the Red Wing Police Department and Goodhue County Sheriff's Office, one item on her wishlist would be a power outlet.

"Meet someplace where you can try the phone, plug the vacuum cleaner in, make sure it starts," Reny said. "You have to take responsibility for your money."