The Lincoln Police Department's Center Team substation has served as more than just a hub for officers being briefed before shifts, interviewing people and documenting crimes.
Under its new Swap Spot program, the station at 27th and Holdrege streets has hosted child custody exchanges and helped provide a locale for pre-arranged online transactions, even before the signage arrived.
"If you need to meet up with somebody but you don’t know who this person is, you don’t want to go to their house, or maybe you don’t want them to go to your house, you want a neutral place that’s safe and secure to meet up with this person," Officer Andrew Gallagher said, "well, the Lincoln Police Department is now providing you the space to do that."
Two stalls on the north side of the station are marked with signs bearing the Swap Spot logo.
Under the program, officers will not act as witnesses or mediators, and 911 must be called in emergencies for assistance. But the spots will be well-lit and monitored by surveillance video.
Surveillance footage of the transaction area will be kept for 30 days, so anyone experiencing issues with the items they receive at the Swap Spot should call police within that time frame, Gallagher said.
Weapons, drugs, medication or hazardous chemicals or explosives may not be exchanged at the Swap Spot.
Children may not be left unattended at the substation, Gallagher said.
Gallagher's project was adopted from a national program called SafeTrade, which started in 2015 as a response to transactions stemming from Craigslist and other sites that went awry, according to the program's website.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office hosts the exchanges during regular business hours, and the Bellevue and Omaha police departments, as well as the Sarpy County Sheriff's Office, have similar initiatives.
LPD funded the cameras through its budget, Gallagher said.
As part of the department's Center Team, Gallagher worked many calls related to fraud that fueled this project, he said.
He found there were eight Craigslist robberies in Lincoln in 2015, when he began researching the project that ultimately would be put on hold when he deployed as part of the Army Reserve.
"Even if you could cut that in half with people using our program, I think that would be worth it," he said.