Commercial real estate is gradually becoming one of the more dangerous industries in America. Since 2008, over one hundred real estate professionals have been senselessly killed; sparked by the mass of home foreclosures beginning that year.
In 2011, the murder of a 27-year-old real estate agent Ashley Okland in a model home brought the importance of commercial real estate security and video security monitoring to the public’s attention. Groups on various social media networks, like LinkdIn, have been formed to help solve this problem. Tracy Hawkins, the owner and safety product speaker of Safety and Security Source encourages the use of video security monitoring in rental spaces and model homes nationwide. Her LinkdIn network includes over two hundred real estate professionals who have begun carrying mace, Taser guns, and even guns.
Regarded by many as one of the more secure professions, with little risk of injury involved, real estate agents now have lots to fear in the face of massive debt and widespread home foreclosures hitting this country. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, violence is quite a problem in the real estate field. There has been an average of 75 real estate agent deaths per year from 2003-2009, with a slight increase in recent years. Most rental agents show homes after-hours in hopes of a sale, and desperation has even caused some to expand their properties to lower-income areas. By venturing into these areas unprepared, real estate agents are sometimes coming face to face with meth labs, squatters, and other unsavory characters.
These senseless murders are committed for a variety of reasons; old homes being used to produce illegal drugs, clients upset over being “ripped-off," or even a last and desperate attempt by an owner of a foreclosed house at getting their home back. Some of these murders are pre-meditated, and through the use of Facebook and Twitter are made easier. A real estate agent in Orange County was brutally raped and left for dead after her assailant saw her photo online, and stalked her through various forms of social media. She was able to get away by feigning death.
In order to prevent such crimes, there are a variety of things real estate agents can do. They can meet potential clients in an open and public environment, take classes in safety and self defense, arm themselves with a weapon, or vocalize the importance of utilizing commercial real estate security through video monitoring or security guards. Most importantly, real estate agents should trust their gut instinct and avoid putting themselves in risky situations.