Ontario introducing 'Safe Trade Zones' to complete online transactions

Nov 9, 2020

Many Ontario communities now have a safe place to exchange goods bought and sold online through sites like kijiji, ebay, Facebook Marketplace, and even good old newspaper classifieds.

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has created Project Safe Trade and established a Safe Trade Zones in the parking lots of OPP stations—called detachments, across the province.  On October 31, 2020, the Safe Trade Zone was unveiled at the new OPP detachment building in Hawkesbury. Buyers and sellers can meet at two parking spaces to exchange items and complete transactions. 

Creating a Safe Trade Zone is about moving online transactions away from secluded parking lots, personal residences or other areas and bringing them to a public place.

“You don’t know who’s coming to your house,” said Constable Mario Gratton, who is the Community Service Officer for the Hawkesbury OPP detachment.

An Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Safe Trade Zone sign.
Credit James Morgan / NCPR News

UnfortunatelSafe Trade y, there have been examples in other communities where the exchange of items or payment for online sales ended tragically.

In 2013, Tim Bosma of Ancaster, near Hamilton Ontario, was kidnapped while accompanying prospective buyers of a pickup truck he had listed online for a test drive.  Bosma’s remains were later found near Kitchener, west of Toronto.

“It’s better to go to a public parking lot, a public place,” Gratton said.

The OPP also sees the Safe Trade Zones as a way of reducing the sale of stolen goods.

The spaces are well-lit for nighttime exchanges, and available at all times with no appointment necessary. However, the OPP does not monitor or mediate the use of the spaces. 

Online transaction safety tips from the OPP include:

  • Meet in a busy public place
  • Bring a trusted friend or family member along as a witness
  • Keep transactions during to daylight hours
  • Do not erase emails, texts or voicemails between yourself and the seller/buyer

The Safe Trade Zones at the Hawkesbury OPP detachment were unveiled to raise awareness just before the beginning of Crime Prevention Week in Canada, which was from November 1 to 7.

Project Safe Trade Safe Trade Zones have been established outside OPP and municipal police stations in communities across Ontario during the past three years.  They have also been established by police departments in other Canadian provinces.