Vancouver Police are commending the bravery of two food delivery workers who were stabbed when they thwarted an attempted robbery stemming from a Facebook Marketplace sale.

VPD Sgt. Steve Addison said a 21-year-old suspect was in custody after pepper spraying the seller in the transaction and trying to steal the item for sale, a computer graphics card, before being subdued by bystanders.

"We never want to encourage people to put themselves in harm's way and take risks that could put their safety in jeopardy," Addison said at a news briefing about the incident.

"But we also know that there are times when people will act instinctively when they see something that is wrong, and they will do what they believe is the right thing to do."

Police said the incident happened at around 7:40 p.m. Tuesday in the Olympic Village neighbourhood, when the 36-year-old seller met a man who had agreed to buy the high-value card.

The in-person exchange turned violent when the buyer pepper sprayed the seller and tried to flee with his card.

Addison said the food-delivery workers and others gave chase and subdued the suspect who was trying to escape in a taxi.

He said one delivery worker was stabbed in his hand and the other in his shoulder. Both are recovering after being treated in hospital, with one being kept overnight.

Addison called the action of the bystanders "extremely courageous, brave and selfless."

#Vancouver food delivery workers stabbed after seizing Facebook Marketplace thief: @VancouverPD. #VPD #OnlineTransactions #SafeExchangeLocation

"Their selfless actions stopped the suspect from getting away with the crime and may have prevented others from falling victim," Addison said in a news release.

He also praised other witnesses who called police and remained at the scene to speak with investigators.

Addison said the VPD expected to bring weapon and robbery-related charges against the suspect, who was in police custody Wednesday pending a court appearance to determine bail.

Vancouver Police warned residents earlier this month to use caution when completing online transactions in person due to a rise in such incidents.

In a message on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, the VPD said a 17-year-old suspect was arrested on Dec. 2 after robbing a man during another Facebook Marketplace transaction near the Joyce-Collingwood SkyTrain station.

"We've talked a lot about the dangers on some of the risks that are associated with buying and selling things … and doing transactions with people you don't know," Addison said Wednesday.

"There needs to be a realization that there are risks inherent in doing these kinds of transactions."

Vancouver police have set up a safe-exchange location with video surveillance outside its headquarters on Cambie Street, and Addison said people completing Facebook or Craigslist transactions were encouraged to use the site to ensure their safety.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2023.

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