I was a student and practitioner of an Israeli system of self defense, Krav Maga, for many years. Much of my training revolved around dealing with contemporary, real world situations such as brawls, muggings, even scenarios like the shooting which occurred yesterday at Northern Illinois University. In the Seattle area, agents have been alerted recently to news of a man pretending to be an “all cash” buyer while endeavoring to lure female agents to remote, vacant listings, presumably with the intention to do harm. Indeed, only a few years ago, one of my peers was mortally stabbed while showing a property. The perpetrator remains at large.
Although it is statistically unlikely any of us will find ourselves trapped in the terror that must come with an event such as yesterday’s massacre, complacency and adopting an “it will never happen to me” attitude can certainly contribute to those odds. We are not immune from violent crime. Still, there are simple steps one can take to minimize risk:
· Take a self-defense class. Knowledge is power.
· Request that clients meet you at your office or in a public place such as a local café. Meeting at the office sets a professional tone while allowing you flexibility to amend your plans if suspicions are raised.
· When showing properties, it’s a good idea to let a colleague, spouse, the front office know you’re out with a new client, especially if its someone you don’t know.
· Be aware and cautious of poorly lit or overly concealed entries. Make a note of exits and avoid being the first to enter the home you are showing.
· If you know the location of a showing to be remote, ask a colleague to join you or meet you there. Let the client know you’ll drive there separately so you have your own vehicle.
· Make arrangements to have hourly contact with the office, friends or family.
· When holding an open house, ask that visitors sign in to the guest log. Just because a house is being held open does not mean that access to it should be indiscriminate. Explain to sellers it is your policy to keep such a log as a matter of security and safety. A visitor refusing to honor your request may certainly be refused access to the home.
· If the property is large, with many rooms, floors or generally difficult to monitor, it’s wise to invite a colleague to join you. It’s a great opportunity for new agents to learn the process of holding open house while adding to your personal security.
· Request that your sellers either conceal or remove from the premises valuable items, prescription drugs, anything which might be enticing to the thieving eye. Guns should be locked away in a gun safe, definitely not displayed in the open or hidden under the mattress. Medicine cabinets remain a popular and readily available source of controlled substances.
· When leaving a home, check windows, doors, etc., ensuring all are secure.
· Park in well-lighted areas. Keep your keys out as you approach your car. They can make a potent weapon in a pinch. Many newer remote key fobs include a panic button. Be aware that some attackers have been known to lie under the car of their intended victim.
· Personally, I am not an advocate for carrying a firearm. In most instances, the intended crime occurs before the victim has an opportunity to draw and use the weapon.
Being safe requires forethought, vigilance and most importantly, common sense. There is no greater warning system than your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Trust your gut.