Safe Exchange Zones help with custody transfers

Safe exchange zones could be used for the transfer of anything, but Nitro Police Chief Bobby Eggleton said the zone outside of his police department was established with child custody transfers in mind. (WCHS/WVAH)

A shooting at a home along Sycamore Road in Hurricane landed Thomas Sowards, 22, in jail charged with two counts of attempted murder.

Putnam County Deputies said it all started over the exchange of child custody, leading police to remind people how to protect themselves and their children during the transfer of custody.

“We understand that you need a place, and we want to provide that,” Bobby Eggleton, Nitro Police Chief, said.

Eggleton helped set up a safe exchange zone outside of the department focused on child custody transfers.

“Is there an officer here all the time?” Eggleton said, “Sure there is, but more importantly it’s a safe place.”

Safe zones like the one at the Nitro Police Department are video surveilled and likely to diffuse volatile situations before they arise, and Eggleton said a judge can order the transfer to happen at locations like it.

“Have the family court judge tell you, this is where you can make your exchanges,” he said.

Separated parents can also set up “no-contact” transfers where parents don’t talk to or see each other during the exchange, or schedule the meets in a public place so other people are around to see what happens.

If none of that is an option and things get aggressive, Eggleton said the answer to diffusing the situation is simple.

“Walk away,” he said, “go back to the courts.”

State Police Officer Reginald Patterson took the solution a step further, saying give them a call and they will mediate the transfer.

“We don’t want and harm to come to the child or the parents making the exchange,” Patterson said.

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