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 Crimes Against Real Estate Agents
By: Darin "Sid" Cameron, CRS
Fri, Sep 8th, 2006 11:39 am

If you’re not from St. Louis (or haven’t read the news lately) there were two real estate agents robbed at open houses in the St Louis area last week.  One had their car stolen; the other was kidnapped at gun point where he was forced to take money out of an ATM.

A suspect was apprehended yesterday, so now it’s easy to shrug that off and say, “It was a one time occurrence,” or, “It was in a different town; I’m safe where I’m at.” However before you do, I would encourage you to read the rest of this article.

Another Agent; Another Town

The story you might not have heard was that 40 year old Sarah Walker, a real estate agent in Dallas, Texas and mother of a 4 year old child, was brutally murdered- stabbed 20 times- at an open house in July. She was robbed of jewelry and a Rolex watch.

The agent was working at a display home for a new subdivision in a Dallas suburb that looks an awful lot like St Louis’ West County or St Charles County neighborhoods.  She could have easily been another face in the office I work out of.

When police apprehended the killer yesterday, they announced it was because another real estate agent recognized him from the police drawing. Apparently the killer had entered the second agent’s open house but became nervous when he saw a dog. Because of this, it is speculated that he was targeting real estate agents. (See the link to the story below.)

Another isolated incident? Hardly.

On August 23 (as in two weeks ago) a New Castle, PA man showed up at a vacant home for sale, saw the door was open, called the agent and then walked in. He was robbed at knife point. The attackers were neighbors who had broken into the home to smoke crack in an upstairs bedroom.

On August 6th (as in 30 days ago) it was a Kansas City agent who was kidnapped and robbed at gun point. The agent went off to meet a man who had contacted her about buying a home. After showing the man several homes, he pulled a gun on her and forced her to drive to several banks to withdraw money. The robber even called the agent a few days later demanding more money.

On June 23 (2 ½ months ago), a Napa, CA agent received a call from someone wanting to see a new construction (vacant) listing. When the agent arrived she walked through the home turning on the lights. As soon as she entered the kitchen, a man in a ski mask entered the front door and assaulted her.

Four days earlier (June 19) in Hattiesburg, MS, a gunman posing as a homebuyer shot a 70 year old Prudential agent four times then killed the homeowner and her nephew. It was believed he was using the agent to gain access to the home so he could kill the owner (whom he had had a run in with).

Within 11 days in May, three female real estate agents in the Atlanta area were tied up, robbed and had their cars stolen. All were blindly responding to phone calls to see homes.

In March there were two separate and unrelated incidents in Florida- one was an agent who was hit in the back of the head with a hammer by a man posing as a buyer and the other was an agent held up at gun point.

These are just the stories I’ve found from the past six months!

The list I found on crimes against real estate agents goes on and on.

The North Carolina Association of REALTORS produced a pamphlet that gives additional stories of agents killed on listing calls or raped after their attackers picked their photo out of a real estate magazine. It also produced these sobering statistics:

- Twenty-one real estate professionals were murdered while on the job in the United States in 2000.

- Between 1982 and 2000, 206 agents died as a result of violent assaults.

- There were many more reports of agents being raped, beaten or robbed.

Now, I’m not writing this article to panic anyone or recommend that we never leave the office. The point here is that none of us take enough time to think about security when doing an open house (or showing houses for that matter) because we’re too busy trying to be sales people.

Unfortunately, male agent or female agent, good neighborhood or bad, we have all advertised in the newspaper, on the internet and on signs outside the home what time we will be alone in a strange home that may or may not have working telephone service, with the front door standing wide open.

Real estate agents are also guilty of advertising EVERYWHERE how damn successful we are- which only fuels the illusion to the bad people in this world that we are all rich.

Also, to think that safety has something to do with the neighborhoods you are in is a bad assumption. Most of the stories I quoted above talk about how the criminal picked the agent or picked a random empty house to commit their crimes- the neighborhoods the crimes actually happened in were irrelevant.

Nice expensive homes on large lots in the suburbs may offer the seclusion a criminal might want over the working class row homes in the city where neighbors might be milling around in the street.

Finally, many of the stories I’ve just mentioned talk about how the agent found nothing unusual about the criminal prior to the attack- including one where the assailant posed as a nicely dressed DEA Agent- and even followed the real estate agent back to her office to discuss financing before going out to look at an empty house for a second time to, “take room measurements prior to writing a contract.” That’s when she was robbed.

So just for a moment, let’s all think about how we can take proactive measures to better protect ourselves when showing homes or holding open houses. Building or adopting a safety strategy should be as important as building a marketing strategy.

Simple things like having mace in our pockets instead of in the car or back at the office could make all the difference. Keeping your cell phone on you at all times is a good idea as well (instead of charging in the car). Having someone know where you are at when showing a house or checking in periodically can be a big deal as well. These things should probably be as important as having our Supra key or carrying a stack of business cards.

If you are an agent in the St Louis area, SLAR (the local Association of Realtors) sells mace in their store. This might be a good starting point.

Links to stories I referenced are below.
READ- Real Estate Safety Tips and Attack Statistics (from NC Assoc. of REALTORS):
http://realestate.realsafe.net/images/Safetyguide.pdf#search='real%20estate%20agent%20robbed'

Dallas Agent Murdered:
http://cbs11tv.com/topstories/local_story_249224653.html
PA Man Attacked:
http://www.ncnewsonline.com/local/local_story_235083616.html
KC Agent Attacked:
http://www.thekansascitychannel.com/news/9725465/detail.html
CA Agent Attacked:
http://www.napavalleyregister.com/articles/2006/06/23/news/local/iq_3488352.txt
MS Agent Shot in Triple Shooting
http://www.toprealtynews.com/realestatenews/id_22771/

List of other news reports on attacks against Real Estate Agents:
http://www.realguard.com/news.htm

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Darin "Sid" Cameron spent 15 years working in tech sales which in 1998 relocated him to St. Louis. In 2004 he took over web development tasks for Kimberly's real estate team and later became the full-time Marketing and Operations Director. In 2011, he launched two brokerages, The Realty Store, Inc. and Realty Referral Partners, Inc. Sid holds a real estate broker's license in Missouri, CRS certification and was the first CyberStar in the St. Louis area.
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