NEW ORLEANS - During today's regular City Council meeting, Councilmembers unanimously adopted resolution R-21-114 urging the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) to designate clearly marked “Safe Exchange Zones” at district stations to provide residents with a reasonably safe and public area to conduct legal, private transactions from online marketplaces or internet purchases.
The resolution was developed in response to the death of Joseph Vindel, a New Orleans resident who was tragically killed while meeting a stranger to complete an online sale transaction. As New Orleanians continue to face financial challenges due to the economic downtown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s increasingly important to find additional avenues and sources of income wherever possible. These types of internet purchases and exchanges are becoming much more commonplace, creating potentially life-threatening situations. The Council is urging NOPD leaders to implement “Safe Exchange Zones” to ensure local residents can conduct online business without fear of being harmed in the process.
"While it is terribly unfortunate that this measure is coming about because of a tragedy, we hope that Safe Exchange Zones will create a measure of safety for our residents," said District "B" Councilmember Jay H. Banks. "Working with NOPD, we will be able to designate neutral areas for exchanges to take place at district stations. This will help not only those completing online transactions in person but also child custody exchanges and any situation where a safe public space is needed."
Concerned residents were also behind the push to implement "Safe Exchange Zones" as seen in municipalities nationwide. Venus Masakowski, a public safety advocate and Touro Bouligny resident, reached out to neighbors on social media and encouraged the Council to take this important measure.
“NOPD is pleased to be working with the City Council to establish the parameters of the proposed internet exchange safe zones,” said Superintendent Shaun Ferguson. “Any citizen is welcome to use any of the locations to complete transactions in a safe and trusted environment.”