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'Safe Haven' Could Protect Classified Ad Victims


Meeting up with a stranger to deliver goods advertised online is dangerous. That’s the message a Miami Gardens Democrat wants to send with her “safe haven” bill.

Imagine pulling into a dark parking lot with a handful of cash. The person waiting is supposed to have a laptop he advertised online. He points a gun instead. Ambushes like that happen all the time, insists Representative Barbara Watson.

“A high school student in Georgia wanting to purchase a new cell phone, a used one, and was murdered for the money.   ”

It’s impossible to count the victims, including those who were murdered, Watson says. Police don’t log violent crimes that way. But Watson says there would be fewer attacks if the exchanges happened in state-owned buildings, like highway patrol stations and universities.

But Winter Park Police Chief Brett Bailey sees a potential problem with the concept. People could get a false sense of security.

“Something could happen outside in a parking lot of a public building and nobody inside would know what’s going on.”

The bill requires a minimum number of safe havens in state buildings based on local populations. Local governments would have to approve safe havens in their public buildings.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.