When real estate agent Beverly Carter went missing on Sept. 25, it sparked a viral social media campaign to find her. Sadly, Carter’s body was found in a shallow grave north of Little Rock, Arkansas, four days later, making her the latest real estate agent to be murdered in the U.S.
Carter’s case was not rare. It was the social media blitz that helped to make her case high profile. Real estate agents have long been targets of crime.
“It happens all the time unfortunately,” said Shannon Sessions, owner of Lynnwood-based business Safety Sessions. “Assaults on real estate agents just isn’t big news.”
As a past public information officer for the Lynnwood Police Department and a crime prevention specialist, Sessions is very aware of the ways in which people can put themselves in danger, particularly through their jobs.
In Carter’s case, she did many things right, Sessions said. Carter let her husband know where she was going to be and when she would be expected back. But there was more she could have done to protect herself.
Safety Sessions offers courses in real estate agent safety, corporate crime prevention, women’s safety, children’s safety and much more. CPR/AED and First Aid certifications are also available through Safety Sessions.
Sessions teaches real estate agents how to walk the line between being personable but not personal.
She also stresses the importance of getting identification and checking to see if the person even qualifies for a loan before meeting a stranger inside of an empty house.
If a person is a legitimate client, they usually won’t mind providing information. That is the message that the industry has been working hard to get out, Sessions explained. But agents are still often willing to compromise their own safety and take a chance rather than lose the opportunity of a potential sale.
Sessions is passionate about the business that she started to help offset the lack of crime prevention resources available to businesses, organizations and others.
In the past, businesses often looked to the police departments for assistance with crime prevention.
“With budget cuts, most police departments don’t have a crime prevention section anymore,” Sessions said.
Yet workplace violence is still a reality. In many cases, the situation could have been avoided had certain precautions been taken. Warning signs are frequently ignored.
Sessions believes the most important thing people can do for their own safety is to not ignore their sixth sense and to listen to what their gut is telling them.
“We tend, through human nature, to deny and diminish,” Sessions said. “Those things happen on TV. We can’t imagine them happening to somebody we know or in our own life.”
While at the police department, Sessions would frequently hear victims of crime say they knew something wasn’t right about the person or situation. They just didn’t act on those feelings.
People need to empower themselves to do something about it, Sessions said. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.
She has found that women, more than men, tend to put themselves into unsafe situations because they don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.
As a media relations training and consulting specialist and former public information officer, Sessions is also called in to help because something bad has already happened and the business needs advice about dealing with the media.
Most organizations aren’t equipped to deal with a high profile incident that is going to attract a lot of public and media attention.
Corporations will often reply, “No comment” which is not the best answer, Sessions said. It is always better to offer some kind of statement.
“Even if corporately you can’t speak on it, can’t you say that you are cooperating with the police or that you’re sorry for the family? There is always something you can say,” she said. “We help with those kind of things.”