Too many times, police officers or sheriff's deputies are called to stand by when divorced parents meet to let the non-custodial parent pick up children and return them to the other parent. And with the increasing need for a safe place to complete a transaction that originated on one of the many sale and trade sites on the Internet, Hopkins County Sheriff Lewis Tatum has established a safe place for those transactions on the parking lot of Hopkins County Law Enforcement Center on Houston Street.
“Child custody exchange is one of the reasons why this Safe Exchange Zone was created,” Tatum said Thursday morning. “That is always a tender or rough issue for parents swapping children, and we want to give them the opportunity to do it here in front of the Law Enforcement Center. People have already been using our parking lot anyway. Now we have two spots designated for that and video cameras are designated for those spots.”
Tatum said another high-resolution camera will be installed for the exchange area in the near future.
The Safe Exchange Zone is also designed to provide an additional measure of safety for people meeting to make an exchange in an agreement made on the Internet.
“We have some parking spaces we have designated exchanges and e-commerce trade,” Tatum said Thursday morning. “If you are exchanging something you've bought or sold over the Internet with someone you don't know, you are not for-sure about, we have designated two spots in front of the sheriff's office to make sure these exchanges are made safely.”
The two spaces on the front parking lot at Hopkins County Law Enforcement Center are monitored around the clock, seven days a week.
“They are monitored by high-resolution cameras in dispatch and also the central control room in the jail,” he explained. “There is a number on the sign, 903-438-4040, that goes directly to dispatch. If when you first arrive you will call that number the dispatchers will make sure they know you are there and will be monitoring you while you are there. They can actually zoom in on the cameras.
“I think that will put some people at ease — and it will also put us at ease — knowing that we are watching. Anybody that had any bad thoughts or wants to do something that is not on the up-and-up — maybe that will be a deterrent for them,” the sheriff said.