Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors members Wednesday expressed shock and concern for a fellow agent who was raped while showing a Robertsdale home earlier last week.
The attack also has brought to the forefront the issue of Realtor safety, said GNIAR Chief Operating Officer Pat Pullara.
Pullara, who posted information about the incident on the GNIAR website in order to make agents aware of what happened, said the association is urging its members to be as cautious as possible. She said Realtors should make sure associates, family or friends know where they are when out on appointments.
Pullara urges agents to use the ActiveKey lockbox key safety alert feature, which can be programmed to automatically send an email or text to an agent's office or home if a Realtor is in trouble.*
GNIAR Board President India Castaneda said many fellow Realtors fear what happened last week could happen to anyone.
Castaneda said this is the third misfortune this year involving Northwest Indiana Realtors. In March a Re/Max Integrity agent showing a vacant house in Merrillville was injured in an explosion and later died. This summer Valparaiso’s Prudential Executive employees were held hostage by a gunman, who eventually committed suicide.
GNIAR Board President-elect Betty Daniel-Lanie said she remembers a similar incident about 12 to 15 years ago when an agent was raped while on a showing.
“We try to remind our fellow Realtors to be more cognizant of this type of thing, to be more aware and careful,” Daniel-Lanie said. “Unfortunately we get a little relaxed in our habits."
Daniel-Lanie said the main concern now is for the agent who was attacked on the job.
“Will she be able to go back to work or ever feel comfortable again?” Daniel-Lanie asked. “Our concern is whether there is anything we can to help her at this time.”
Daniel-Lanie said she and other Realtors will feel much more comfortable if and when the two perpetrators are caught and brought to justice.
Pullara said Realtors have to realize the vulnerable position they are in when showing homes to strangers.
“We have to keep in mind there are some people who are looking for crimes of opportunity,” Pullara said. “We are trusting by nature, which may be creating an opportunity for violence.”
Pullara said agents never can be too cautious and should follow their gut instinct. Pullara urges agents to use the buddy system and not to be afraid to contact local law enforcement if something doesn’t feel right.
Pullara also recommends showing properties during the daylight hours.
“All you can do is put yourself in the best possible position,” Pullara said.
* Editor's note: This story has been updated from an earlier version.
A story in Friday's editions about Realtor safety had incorrect information about the ActiveKey lockbox key safety alert feature. Agents using the ActiveKey Alert feature can program an email message to their office or home as they wish. The Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors would not be the recipient of this message. The Times regrets the error.