Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Ailene Croup
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Safely buy, sell at courthouse


Pine County's version of a program instituted in Hennepin County, called Swap Stop, was given the nod by Pine County commissioners last week at their regular meeting.

Sheriff Jeff Nelson told the board he'd like to make it possible for people who have purchased items online, or in response to an ad, to complete the exchange in a safe place — at the courthouse.

It's something the sheriff's office has "stayed out of" until now.

Nelson who has heard the request several times told the Hinckley News, "People felt they needed to be in a public area to protect themselves."

When he spoke to the board, Nelson gave an example of a recent transaction where the buyer was taken for $7,000.

The buyer was local and was responding to an online sales ad of a Gator — a utility task vehicle (UTV). He chose a place to meet where there was surveillance video on the grounds.

He did everything right, Nelson said. He took the extra steps by taking photos of license plates and identification of the seller, though the suspect did his best to conceal his identity. The seller's documents had been forged.

The buyer went to register the vehicle and found it was stolen.

Through investigation by the Pine County Sheriff's Office, the suspect's identity was revealed.

"I can't say enough about the investigation," Nelson said.

The investigator was Pine County Deputy Chad Layon.

In 2012 and 2013, he was recognized for valor and his numerous arrests and achievements in the department. He was also honored as Deputy of the Year.

The sheriff's office's goal is not to monitor day-to-day transactions and they won't take on any liability of what's bought and sold. It gives buyers and sellers a place to go where there is video surveillance and in most cases, Nelson added, the buyer/seller will think twice about committing a crime in the parking lot of the sheriff's office.

If the buyer or seller are suspicious that it may be a criminal transaction, they can contact the sheriff's office prior to the sale.

Transactions can begin taking place at the courthouse parking lot any time, Nelson said.

Soon the program will have a name and there will be an area designated for property purchase and sales in the parking lot just to the north of the sheriff's office.


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