Nate Brantingham already had a business idea when a slaying in Western Washington left him convinced he could fill a niche.
A father advertising a ring for sale on Craigslist was shot dead in his Tacoma-area home in an attack by a group of four young people who were invited into the home as possible buyers. Police say their interest in the jewelry was all a ruse – the assailants looked to the popular online classified site to find someone with valuables who would be an easy target.
Now, even though the tragedy was on the other side of the state, Brantingham is hoping his new consignment store, Safe Trade USA, on Geiger Boulevard in west Spokane, can serve as a safe place for would-be sellers and buyers to meet. Video cameras with night vision capability monitor the parking lot, which Brantingham said is available free of cost.
“No one doing a shady deal is going to say, ‘Yeah, meet me under the surveillance cameras,’” Brantingham said.
Police applaud the idea.
“You just never know who you’re dealing with anymore,” said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department. “We’ve certainly had bad things come of what seemed to be a positive selling experience.”
Last month, two men were assaulted and robbed after arriving at a home on East Nora Avenue in east Spokane where they thought they’d be able to examine a ring for sale. Instead, they were led to a room where a masked gunman assaulted them and stole the $600 they’d brought for the jewelry. Police later arrested two men who they believe carried out the setup.
That kind of violent ruse is exactly the kind of scenario that businesses like Safe Trade USA are trying to prevent.
Brantingham, 33, decided to open the store after the shooting death of Jim Sanders in Edgewood, Wash., in April 2010. Three of four suspects, who police say arranged to see a ring at Sander’s home, have been sentenced in his murder; another is awaiting trial.
Police recommend arranging private classified sales to occur in well-lighted areas and at locations of mutual comfort to both parties. Brantingham’s business is tailored specifically for that purpose, and surveillance cameras are positioned to record the license plate of every car that enters the lot.
Safe Trade USA also stores and sells items for owners.
Brantingham said he’s prepared to summon law enforcement – the store also is located down the road from Washington State Patrol headquarters – but said deterrence is the store’s main objective.
“The goal is to deter terrible things from ever happening,” he said.