Active Rain September 24, 2010

Agent Safety Month and “Packing Heat”

Keep me in the car. I know of two fellow brokers whom I like and respect who have said that they carry and are willing to use a handgun to ensure their safety on showings if some creep means them harm. I think this is a mistake. First things first: as a New Yorker, it is rather foreign to me to carry a gun. Handguns are by and large illegal in New York City, and getting a license to carry in other parts of the state is difficult. We have to have other precautions. 

The best defense against being attacked is, in my view, preparation and prevention- I have blogged about this before. While I am no expert on safety, I have, unfortunately, some field experience in the matter. 12 years ago, I was physically attacked by an imbalanced, irate client. In a prior line of work I was robbed twice. About 18 months ago, a dear friend (who holds a black belt) was savagely beaten in his office and required hospitalization and some plastic surgery. Lastly, I hosted an open house where a significant jewelry theft was made by people who turned out to be professional criminals. I would argue that the presence of a gun could well have made all four of those situations far worse.  

In all of these cases, there were two common threads that a firearm could not prevent: mild deception and surprise. Attacks are not the result of an elaborate deception as much as they capitalize on a nanosecond of distraction or a turned head. You cannot successfully sell real estate and simultaneously prepare to go toe to toe with an attacker. You can successfully sell real estate and be on the safe side of events. 

Self defense, in my view, should be more about escape than pointing a gun at an attacker, assuming you even got that chance. Get out. Get away. Live to tell about it. Your gun could be used on you. 

From my prior post:

Beating up your attacker is not plan A. If you can defend yourself, do so to the extent to get away. Think Edith Bunker when she thwarted that would be rapist. But if you fight, you are engaging someone in their turf; they were ready- you weren’t. And the element of surprise is lethal.  

Prevention is more important than reaction. Don’t be alone with people you haven’t vetted. Don’t do open houses alone with no backup. Casually remark that you expect a male associate any minute. 

Hand to hand combat has problems. Here’s the thing: Attackers sucker punch. Attackers rely on the element of surprise. Attackers are con artists who will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. Attackers wait until you turn your eye away. Then, they’ll hit you hard, fast, low, and repeatedly. That’s the problem. They play dirty. They never tell you to put up your dukes. They rig it to their favor. Sharks, for example, don’t attack on land, where they aren’t very tough. They get you in the water. Don’t go “in the water.” 

If there is going to be a battle, make it a battle of wits. You can win that one. If you are alone in a house with someone who makes you uncomfortable, say “Greg Nino will be here any minute with that survey I forgot on my desk,” or “Jeff Belonger is running late but he has some great financing programs for this house.” Then, get on the phone and call Greg and Jeff and say “Hi, I am at our open at 927 Elm, there is a man here who really want to see that floor plan/mortgage/survey.” They’ll get the message. If I got that call from one of my team I’d send Cavelleria Siciliana

There are tons of things you can do to avoid a scrap. Get names. Get numbers. Verify. Let people know where you are at all times. Work as a team. Carry mace or pepper spray. Keep your eyes open and keep your distance. Never be alone with an unknown out of distance from civilization. Casually mention that others are on their way. But it is prevention, not a good left hook, that is the best deterrent to being harmed. 

I would add that producing a gun when threatened or attacked would throw gas on a fire. You won’t have a chance to take a position. In struggle, a gun can get away from you. Then, a black eye can deteriorate into a bullet hole. If anything, a gun might create a false sense of security, which could result in foolhardiness or carelessness. Make sure that where ever you go, and whomever you are with, that it is clear that the appointment is documented, that you aren’t truly alone, and that help is near. And if you don’t feel comfortable, get out.