Utah police show humor, claim to set up ‘drug exchange zone’ at station

**EMBARGO: Salt Lake City. UT** A phrase that often makes headlines — "drug deal gone wrong" — led the Orem Police Department in search of a fool-proof solution to make drug deals safer.

Orem, Utah — A phrase that often makes headlines — “drug deal gone wrong” — led the Orem Police Department in search of a fool-proof solution to make drug deals safer.

Orem was one of the first police departments in Utah to set up “safe exchange zones” where people buying or selling items from online classifieds can meet and feel safe.

The exchange zones were under video surveillance 24 hours a day, according to Orem Police Lt. Craig Martinez.

And while it may be hard to believe, police said they really do get complaints from people upset that their drug deal didn’t go down as planned.

“So we thought, ‘Why not make those spots into drug exchange spots?’” Martinez said.

On Tuesday, the department posted on their Facebook page about the new drug exchange location in clear view of several police cars.

“It was kind of a light-hearted way to not leave those victims out but we also thought, ‘What if people really do come to our police department to do a drug deal?’ That would be really cool,” Martinez said.

So what would police do if someone really tried it?

“We’d arrest them,” Martinez said. “And we’d talk about it. It would be a story we’d talk about for years, I’m sure.”

But the reality is, the drug exchange zone exists only on social media.

“Yeah, there are safe exchange zones, but there are no drug exchange zones,” Martinez said.

Orem police have found success in using social media to connect with citizens in their community — and have attracted followers well beyond the Orem city limits.

“We like to engage our community, give them an opportunity to help us to do our jobs and see what is going on in their city,” Martinez said. “And that is ultimately what we are trying to do. … Sometimes, when it is really slow, we like to throw funny things like this out and how light-hearted we really can be if you get us in the right setting.”

In all seriousness, police said these safe exchange zones have proved very successful. Some parents even use them frequently during custody exchanges with their children.

Police hope more people will use them for private sales — as long as drugs aren’t involved.