Hartford police are investigating several robberies and carjackings targeting people looking to buy items on sites, such as OfferUp, and police are urging people to conduct transactions in the front parking lot of the Public Safety Complex at 253 High St. to stay safe.
Hartford police set up their “Safe Lot” program in response to Craigslist robberies, but now they are investigating eight several social media-related armed robberies and carjackings over several months in which the victims are lured though ads from the online auction site, “OfferUp.”
In each of the eight cases, the victims came into Hartford from other cities and towns, including Lawrence and Springfield Massachusetts, Middletown, East Hartford and New Britain, police said.
"The security of our users is our top priority and we do not tolerate criminal activity. We have a 24/7 Trust and Safety team available to respond to any issues, and are working with the Hartford Police Department on these incidents. If you have been the victim of a crime or suspect criminal activity, please reach out to your local police department and firstname.lastname@example.org immediately," OfferUp said in a statement.
On Oct. 26, a resident of West Springfield, Massachusetts arranged to meet an online seller in the north end of Hartford and two young men robbed him at gunpoint, police said. They have not identified the man and police are investigating.
On Dec. 6, a victim from Lawrence, Massachusetts responded to an “OfferUp” ad for a Playstation4 and Apple iWatch and was lured into an apartment on Clark Street, where he was robbed at knifepoint, police said. Police charged 21-year-old Hakeem Ferguson with first-degree robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree and police charged 19-year-old Ezekiel Myrie with first-degree robbery and first-degree conspiracy to commit robbery.
On Jan. 13, a victim from Middletown arranged to buy an iPad advertised on “OfferUp” and went with her mother and infant son to meet the seller at a recreation center lot in Hartford. When they arrived, two young men robbed them at gunpoint and fled with their purses, $200, credit cards, cellular phones and more. Police are investigating and have not made any arrests.
On Jan. 20, a victim from Springfield, Massachusetts arranged to buy a PlayStation 4 and Apple iWatch advertised on Offer Up and two young males carjacked the victim, assaulted him and robbed him at gunpoint, police said.
Police have arrested one juvenile suspect and charged him with first-degree robbery, conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery, carjacking, second-degree larceny, third-degree larceny, second-degree threatening and additional charges.
Police have not identified the other juvenile.
On Jan. 21, a Springfield Massachusetts resident was lured to the north end of Hartford under the ruse of an internet sale transaction for a Playstation4 and iPhone. Two young males robbed, assaulted, and ultimately carjacked the victim at gunpoint. The victim identified one of his assailants during the course of the investigation. The arrest will be forthcoming via warrant. The second suspect has not yet been identified.
On Feb. 2, an East Hartford resident went to buy an iPhone6 and met with two men who robbed and carjacked her at gunpoint, police said. The vehicle was found a short time later and police have a suspect for one suspect.
On Feb. 11, a New Britain resident arranged to buy a Play Station 4 advertised on Offer Up and two young men robbed him at gunpoint and knifepoint, police said. The victim was able to identify both suspects. One has been arrested.
Police urge anyone meeting after a social media transaction to meet at a public place, such as the Hartford Police Department, go with someone and not alone, trust your instincts and refrain from inviting strangers to your home or going to theirs.
Be cautious when buying or selling high value items, perform the transaction during daylight hours, tell a friend or family member about your intentions and meet in location where there is video surveillance or bring your own.
Police said they have identified four suspects, two adults and two juveniles, have two other outstanding suspects with active felony warrants and have identified a third outstanding, but a warrant is pending.
Police said they are trying to identify several other people involved.