MESQUITE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – It is popular way to buy and sell things, but it can be dangerous if it’s done at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mesquite Police warned Friday, the rate of internet sales exchanges resulting in thefts in Mesquite is rising towards about 20% of all robberies in the community.

Two years ago, about 5% of all robberies in Mesquite were the result of thefts during the exchange of items from a sale made over the internet.

The Mesquite Police Department is reminding the public not to be a victim of opportunity, but to use opportunities for safe internet exchanges.

“Don’t become a victim of opportunity,” said Mesquite Police Lieutenant and Public Information Officer Stephen Biggs. “Selling to strangers in a secluded area is a recipe for a robbery, assault or worse.”

Mesquite Police recently arrested two people who are suspected of assaulting someone who thought they were buying cell phones.

The MPD offers these opportunities for the community not to be a victim of a crime of opportunity:

· BE SAFE. Meet in the “Exchange Zone.” It is located in the front parking lot of the Mesquite Police Department, at 777 N. Galloway Avenue. The zone is safe and provides 24-hour surveillance cameras of all activity. If you can’t meet at the “Exchange Zone”, meet in a public area during the day. And if the exchange must occur at night, choose a location that has good lighting.

· BE COMFORTABLE. If the exchange must occur at a private residence with strangers, bring a familiar face, like a friend or family member.

· BE SMART. Use smart technology. Text or call a friend about the exchange plans before and after – or even have them on speaker during the exchange as a witness. Set the location tracking feature on a smartphone. Use a transaction app for the sale or purchase. Bring only enough cash for the agreed upon price.

· BE AWARE. Listen to personal instincts and watch surroundings. Leave any situation that feels unsafe.

“We need our community to be aware of this crime trend. Parents need to have a talk with their kids about this subject. And, we need our young adults not to be so cavalier with meeting strangers to exchange stuff,” said Biggs.

The department also released the following public service announcement on the topic: