Milton police offer lobby use for Craigslist transactions

Armed robbery in Janesville prompts practice

Published On: Mar 20 2013 03:06:45 PM CDT   Updated On: Mar 21 2013 12:07:42 PM CDT
MILTON, Wis. -

The Milton Police Department is offering the use of the department's lobby as a public location for people to do Craigslist transactions.

Milton police said the practice is becoming increasingly popular with law enforcement agencies nationwide.

"We had been having the conversation for some time that why not offer up our lobby as a public and safe place to conduct these monetary transactions," said Milton Police Lt. John Conger.

In light of Tuesday's armed robbery in Janesville involving a Craigslist transaction, the Milton Police Department said Wednesday it has decided to begin offering this service immediately.

Capt. Jude Maurer of the Rock County Sheriff's Office said the victims and suspects in Tuesday's incident met online through Craigslist.

A father and son were attempting to sell a laptop computer when the robbers, who had posed as buyers, arrived in the 5800 block of North Glenmoor Lane in Janesville Township at 10:31 p.m., according to the sheriff's office.

The man told dispatchers two men pointed handguns at him and his son and fled in a Cadillac after stealing a smartphone and a laptop computer.

"The victim followed them in his vehicle and eventually followed them to a business in the city of Janesville, where the suspects had become stuck in the snow," Maurer said.

The man then went to a bar, borrowed a cellphone and told dispatchers where the suspects' car was and that the license plate had been removed.

Janesville police and a K-9 assisted deputies in chasing the men and taking them into custody. Sheriff's officials said Brandon M. Bunch, 23, and Brandon S. Turnure, 20, both of Loves Park, Ill., were arrested on suspicion of armed robbery.

Craigslist and similar sites that involve monetary transactions can sometimes be unpredictable, as sellers and buyers are dealing with people they don't know. Those types of transactions can often be fraudulent and, at times, evolve into an unsafe situation, according to a Milton Police Department news release.

The Milton Police Department is at 120 Parkview Drive. The lobby space, which is equipped with surveillance cameras, will only be available for transactions during normal business hours.

Conger said the department's staff won't be involved in the transactions, but he said some criminals may think twice about meeting someone at a police station.

"We're just offering up a mindset in people who are going to conduct these transactions that if it's not at our police department, that's fine, but consider using a public place," Conger said.

To be certain that the lobby is open for use, police said people should make a courtesy call to the department before scheduling a transaction. The main office can be reached at 868-6910, and normal business hours are, generally, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Maurer said the discovery of the suspects' vehicle could lead to additional charges.

"Deputies were able to recover the stolen laptop, along with two other handguns and some other items that indicated to the deputies that these two subjects could be related to the incident that happened in the city of Madison one week ago," Maurer said.

Madison police are looking into whether Bunch and Turnure are linked to a similar robbery in Madison on Friday, when two men pointed guns at a 17-year-old victim and stole the laptop computer he was trying to sell through Craigslist. The two robbers fled in a gold Cadillac, Madison police said.