The basic function of police is to protect the citizenry. In East Chicago, that's being taken to a new level.
East Chicago police are offering use of the police station and parking lot as a safe place for residents to meet with strangers to sell or buy items.
Operation Safe Sale is intended to reduce the number of assaults and robberies that can arise from private sales transactions with strangers.
Operation Safe Sale is open to residents and nonresidents alike, East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker said. Officers will be available 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
East Chicago police should be commended for this new initiative.
Officer William Jansky thought of the idea after reading about incidents nationwide, as well as in Northwest Indiana, where people were robbed or assaulted while meeting with strangers to buy or sell an item.
A few weeks ago, an East Chicago woman reported being robbed after she met with a stranger about purchasing a car. She met the stranger online.
Even more recently, a couple were robbed at gunpoint by three individuals while in Gary to buy a car, Gary police reported.
If a buyer or seller is reluctant to meet at the police station, consider that a red flag.
"What bad guy wants to come to the police department?" Becker said. "Why would someone bring a stolen gun or a stolen bike? They aren't going to do that."
Residents can make an appointment to have an officer present, or they can use the parking lot and lobby without an officer present.
It's sad that this service is needed, but it's good to know it's available now as a way to fight crime in the city. It's an idea that should spread to other cities as well.