After online-related robbery, Dover PD cautions public

DOVER – For the second time in less than nine months, city police advised caution when conducting online sales agreements requiring personal meetings for completion.

Dover Police issued a news release reporting the armed robbery of two men waiting to purchase a phone Monday night after connecting online through a re-sale app.

According to authorities, the men were confronted by an armed suspect in front of the Pine Grove Apartments E Building at approximately 6:45 p.m.; cash, the men gave cash, watches and a cell phone to a suspect who then fled from the area at 255 Webbs Lane, police said.

The men immediately reported the incident to police, who were familiar with a suspect who authorities said was identified in a photo.

On Tuesday morning, police announced they were seeking 24-year-old Willliam Loper on pending charges of first-degree robbery, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, possession of firearm by person prohibited and terroristic threatening (two counts).

While similar incidents “haven’t been seen in some time,” according to Dover Police Spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman, authorities said a series of reported online sales-related crimes were investigated in December 2015.

Late last year, police investigated at least three reports involving arranged meetings through the online classified sales website Craigslist. The incidents involved sales of small electronic devices, authorities said.

No injuries were reported, but Dover Police stressed the dangerous nature of such meetings between buyer and seller.

Meet at police station

After the latest incident, police offered tips and reminders designed to increase the safety of engaging in online sales.

Dover PD said it allows transactions to be conducted in their parking lot at 400 S. Queen Street, front entrance and the nearby vicinity. Also available is a porch overhang in the front entrance area, as long as foot traffic is undisturbed.

“Please keep in mind that the department nor any of its employees will act as a witness to a sale or be involved in any agreements or civil matters involving sales once completed,” according to the news release.

“The Dover Police Department is simply allowing a safe haven for sales to take place without interrupting police operations or access to police services.”

For those transactions away from the police station, the following precautions were recommended:

• Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe, shopping center parking lot, etc.
• Do not meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home.
• Be especially careful buying/selling high value items.
• Consider making high-value exchanges at your local police station.
• Tell a friend or family member where you’re going or when you’re having a buyer/seller in your home.
• Take your cell phone along if you have one.
• Consider having a friend accompany you.
• Trust your instincts.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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