Murder in Arkansas Turns Realtor’s Focus to Safety - What’s Your Plan for Personal Security on the job?
If I were to ask you to list off a few of our most dangerous professions, real estate probably wouldn’t even cross your mind, would it? But the fact of the matter is, as a Realtor, my colleagues and I put ourselves in potentially dangerous situations every single day. The most recent case in Arkansas serves as an unfortunate backdrop for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While workplace fatalities as a whole are decreasing, violence against real estate professionals is steadily growing, and has reached the highest point since 2003, when the BLS started recording such statistics.
Another major cause for concern is the difference between the intent and the outcome of crimes committed. A large portion of the homicides committed against real estate professionals begin as robberies and escalate, and just over 50% of the crimes in question involve a gun. Any crime can escalate very quickly, even accidentally.
The most frustrating thing about the coverage of these events is that every murdered Realtor’s story involves being “lured” to a property. Do you know how hard it is to “lure” a Realtor to a property? Give them a call and ask them to show you the property!
Think about it: what other industry has people advertise their whereabouts on every marketing channel available to them, informing the general public that they will be completely alone in a vacant, unlocked home for several hours, and follow that up with a specific date, time, and place? Although it sounds like something on “To Catch a Predator,” we call this an open house. Personally, I do at least one a week, sometimes more.
We routinely meet strangers alone in their homes, and we regularly meet strangers in vacant properties, undeveloped land, and sometimes even at our own offices during evening and weekend hours when the office is empty. Just last night, someone wanted to see a property on short notice. At 7:00 at night, down a dirt road, off another dirt road, vacant, no streetlights or neighbors to speak of.
Because we are so exposed to opportune moments to commit crimes, we need to take our own personal safety into our own hands. I can’t leave it to my broker to hire a security guard for the office, I’m hardly ever in the office!
Realtors aren’t alone in this vulnerability. Anyone whose place of business is on the road or in people’s homes should be taking their own personal security into their own hands.
What public facing professional can do to keep safe?
Well, every office should have a plan in place for likely emergency situations, and policies that are actively followed and enforced to promote safety and security. But that only goes so far, and we need to take responsibility for our own security as individuals as well. So here’s a few highlights of my personal plan to get you started:
Take control of every situation as soon as your group starts drifting apart. Keep everyone together and in front of you. Plus, you never know what’s behind that door until you’re through it and, with increasing levels of drug related crimes, vacant properties can look quite alluring to someone who would rather not be noticed.
We’re also taught to always meet your client or customer for the first time at the office when other people will be around. It’s always preferable to avoid situations that might require you to use your gun than to blindly go into a situation and hope for the best. Of course, when rubber meets the road, this is easier said than done. But remember that anyone serious about doing business with you, whatever the industry, they should be willing to meet with you and provide some basic information about themselves.
Carry Concealed when meeting strangers
It becomes a habit over time. That way I don’t need to think about whether or not I’ll be in a potentially dangerous situation, and I can always respond quickly when I client or customer wants a showing on short notice. The last thing I want to be worrying about is pushing back a meeting so I have a chance to go home and get my carry rig. Some women have a hard time carrying concealed, simply due to the style differences in clothing. There are plenty of options out there to help you, and a blazer does wonderful things for concealment. Remember that a gun in your purse that you left locked in the car will do you absolutely no good.
I use the same concealed carry holster with the same clothes and practice drawing, acquiring a target, and shooting in one fluid motion. Many people carrying for self defense practice the wrong skill set, i.e. super accurate shooting with a gun they don’t end up carrying, or practicing with a holster that they only use at the range, instead of their every day carry holster. One thing so many people miss is practicing with your equipment in the exact same way you will need to use it should a situation ever arise.
I carry a flashlight everywhere I go. I leave it easily accessible in my bag. When I’m showing homes, I slip it into my pocket. It’s bright (200 lumens. That means VERY bright), metal, and only set me back $15. It’s blindingly bright, and an indispensable self defense tool. It’s also great in basements, or properties that don’t have electricity turned on. On average, I use it several times a week, and I always look prepared in front of clients.
I tell a coworker where I will be, who I will be meeting, and when I expect to be done. We also have a “code” set up in case one of us is in trouble. I’m not going to put our code on the internet, but the response to the code is “should I call the police?” so a simple yes or no is all we need to say in front of someone. A good code will be something easy to remember, you won’t need to use in your business, and won’t stand out from what anyone might expect you to say in the normal course of business.
I always have customers or clients follow me in their own car, unless I know them very well. Not only does this eliminate the need to make small talk between properties and the need to clean my car constantly, it is also much harder to steal my car if they need to leave their car at the scene. And it’s simply another way to prevent them from pulling a gun or attacking you while you are otherwise occupied.
None of these changes hinder my ability to do my job. None of my clients or customers would call me paranoid or strange. At all outward appearances, I am just another Realtor doing my best to serve my community, and nothing I do to ensure my security gets in the way of that. In fact, many of these changes will force you to be more prepared and ready for whatever a life on the road or in strange places can throw at you. If you have not already done so, I recommend picking up a concealed carry holster today: Take a look here: Inside the waistband gun holsters
About The Author
Living in the great state of Vermont, Ryan writes, edits, hunts, shoots, runs a property caretaking business, sells real estate, and carries concealed through it all. Having been taught by his mother to shoot at a young age, Ryan particularly enjoys introducing new people to the firearms community and sharing his knowledge whenever he can.