Q: I was interested in buying an item I saw advertised on Craigslist. My mother told me to be aware of scams on Craigslist. She recently read a story about someone getting robbed from a Craigslist transaction. Is this true? Is there anything I should do to avoid becoming a victim?

A: Unfortunately, your mother is right. (Parents have a good track record of being right most of the time.) Craigslist scams or robberies have been on the rise over the last few years. Just as our environment evolves, so do crimes and the criminals who commit them. One of the things police departments nationwide are seeing is an increase of crimes against Craigslist users. Criminals set up accounts and advertise the sale of items that are highly desirable (iPods, iPhones, iPads, computers, etc). The advertised price appears to be a great deal. As people call in or e-mail about the items for sale, criminals are setting up exchange deals in public places and robbing their potential buyers. Although there is no full-proof way to avoid becoming a crime victim, there are some things you can do to minimize your risk. Here is a list of things you can do to make shopping on Craigslist safer:

• Try negotiating the price of the item you are attempting to buy. Most criminals won’t bother dealing with you if they perceive you to be difficult.

• Try to get as much information from the person selling the item (e-mail addresses, Twitter accounts, Facebook, etc.). You can do a Google background check on the information you obtain. If there’s no history of the person you’re searching that could be a hint that he/she is using another name to hide their identity.

• Arrange meetings in public places or at police stations. Quiet neighborhoods can be secluded, especially during the day, when there may not be any witnesses around.

• If a meeting is scheduled with a seller, visit the area where you are scheduled to meet beforehand. Look for dark or heavily shaded areas that may not be visible to the average citizen walking or driving down the street.

• If you think a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.

• Avoid meeting a seller alone.

Those are just a few additions to the recommendations that are already posted on Craigslist. You can find more helpful ways to reduce your chances of becoming a crime victim by contacting your crime prevention coordinator or neighborhood resource officer.

If you were a victim of theft or burglary and you locate an item on Craigslist that you believe to be yours, contact the police agency that is handling your case and notify them of your discovery. Do not attempt to get the item back on your own. Your safety is paramount over stolen property.

Q: My family and I recently moved to Santa Monica from the east coast. We are off-road vehicle enthusiasts and own ATVs (all-terrain vehicles). Are there any locations on the beach where we can use our ATVs?

A. There are several areas in California that do allow for this type of recreation, but Santa Monica is not one of them. In fact, there is only one place along a beach in California where off-road or off-highway vehicles are allowed. The location is the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. It’s located near Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County. The park is approximately 175 miles north of Santa Monica off Highway 1. You can find out more information on this park or others in California by visiting www.parks.ca.gov. This website will give you information on all parks and recreational areas in California where off-road vehicles can be used.

You should also be aware that California law requires all ATV operators to wear an approved helmet when operating an ATV on public lands. There are other provisions pertaining to ATVs which can be found in the California Off-Highway Vehicle Law Book. You can read this book online at http://ohv.parks.ca.gov

Community event

On Friday, Feb. 18, at 3:30 p.m., the Santa Monica Police Department will participate in a charity baseball game at Santa Monica High School. Come watch the officers play against the Vikings in a high spirited rematch. The game will be played on the baseball field at Samohi (500 Olympic Blvd.). Admission is free to all spectators. There will be raffle prizes and delicious barbecue for purchase (all proceeds from food sales will be donated to the Santa Monica High School baseball team).

This column was prepared by NRO Mike Boyd, Beat 8 (Pico Neighborhood). He can be reached at (424) 200-0688 or michael.boyd@smgov.net.

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