Following several Facebook Marketplace robberies, police urge use of ‘safe exchange zones’

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 7:26 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - In Henrico, a 20-year-old is charged with resisting arrest and robbery in what appears to have been a social media set-up. Kenny Knight listed an item for sale on the internet and met up with the potential buyer.

Police say he and the victim got into an argument before Knight stole cash.

“We’ve had an uptick in robberies associated with these meetups,” RPD Lt. William Brereton said.

As more people look to make fast cash on Facebook Marketplace and other social media sites, police say this type of crime is becoming increasingly common. Police also say it is becoming more dangerous, as many people have been threatened or robbed at gunpoint.

A similar situation happened last Friday in Richmond on Mansion Avenue. A family walked right into an armed robbery after trying to buy an iPhone listed on Facebook Marketplace.

Police say 25-year-old Ricky Coleman was charged with robbery and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony after he took their cell phones and cash. Luckily, there were no injuries, but that’s not always the case.

“It does escalate quickly because the suspects are on their own turf. They know where to have you come where no one is going to see the robbery going on, and then they’re quickly out of the area,” Brereton said. “In a lot of the cases, the victims didn’t know where they were.”

That’s why Richmond Police urge everyone to meet at a safe exchange zone.

Diane Grey has heard about the uptick in these types of robberies. For her, it hits home.

“There was a rollercoaster of emotions through social media. I saw the story, and I’m so thankful that this family is not on the path that we are,” Diane Grey said.

Her 23-year old son, Josh, met up with someone to sell his iPhone in 2018 but instead was robbed and murdered.

“I know Josh, and I know his thought process was, ‘I can make a couple of dollars. It’s on my to-do list for the day, and I’m going to move along,’” Grey said. “Is it worth 10, 20 bucks? I mean, is it really?”

The Grey family is on a mission, putting up billboards to remind people to think twice before meeting someone in an unfamiliar place to buy or sell an item.

“Especially at that age, they seem invincible, thinking, ‘it can’t happen to me,’” she said. “I can tell you that I’m standing here, and it’s a God-awful, gut-wrenching experience.”

In Richmond, there are two safe exchange zones, one at the 2nd Precinct on Belt Boulevard and another at the 4th Precinct on Chamberlayne Avenue.

If you cannot make it to a safe exchange zone, police say to at least find a well-lit public place to carry out the sale, preferably with lots of people around.

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