Round Table Realty hosts safety seminar for real estate professionals.
Working as a real estate agent isn’t often thought of as a perilous profession. But there are those who say it should be considered one of the most dangerous jobs.
That is why Howard Flaschen hosts a safety seminar for his Round Table Realty employees and other local Realtors about once a year.
This year’s event in late August at the Shearwater community center in St. Augustine included a presentation by Brad Causey, a security specialist and former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office deputy with 27 years on the force.
Along with offering tips on staying aware at all times, the event included suggestions on how to fight back and save oneself, as some real estate agents have fallen victim to attackers, including in Northeast Florida.
In July 2016, Jacksonville police arrested a 41-year-old man days after authorities said he kidnapped, robbed and sexually assaulted a woman at knifepoint at a Jacksonville Beach realty office.
“You may meet someone you only know from online,” Flaschen said at the event before he introduced Causey. “We let our guard down all the time in this line of work. We have been trained to cut people slack or blow off weird behavior because it’s commission sales.”
As the broker and owner of Round Table Realty based in St. Johns County, Flaschen said his agency doesn’t have sales quotas.
That is out of concern for his staff’s safety, since so many of them work alone and often with clients they know little to nothing about before meeting them.
He said he tells his Realtors that he doesn’t expect them to sell a home if the “hair on the back of their neck rises” because they get an odd feeling about a prospective client.
Causey, who worked on JSO’s SWAT team for more than a decade and as a motorcycle patrol officer for about the same amount of time, gave the 20 real estate professionals in attendance many tips.
Those included staying aware of their surroundings not just when they’re about to host an open house by themselves, but everywhere they go.
He said that many people don’t pay attention to where they are going because they are constantly looking down at their phones.
“If you’re in the office, that’s fine, but if it’s in a parking lot, that’s not the right time,” he said, adding that is one way in which criminals choose their victims, by sneaking up close to someone and attacking before they have time to react. “You’re just vulnerable that way.”
During his many years as a police officer, Causey said he often would hear victims say after being assaulted that they noticed something suspicious but didn’t do anything about it like call a friend, go back inside a building or shout for help.
He said if you see a person looking around and acting strangely, turn around and go in the opposite direction.
“If you can’t keep your distance, that’s when you get aggressive,” he said. “If they get close to you, it’s time to be rude. If it turns out to be nothing, you can apologize.”
Flaschen told the Realtors that they have to give themselves permission to be savage and picture themselves in a scenario where they fight back instead of freezing up.
“Say to yourself, ‘I am going home tonight,’” he said. “You have the right to go home. You have the right to get violent.”
At the end of the presentation, Causey and Flaschen paired up to show off a few techniques that can be used if an attacker grabs a victim from behind or is holding their arms.
For example, they demonstrated using an elbow to ram an attacker’s chin and talked about hitting or kicking the person to quickly bring him to his knees.
“You gotta give it your all,” Causey said. “Are you going to get bruised up? Probably. But if you give 100 percent commitment, (the techniques) will work.”
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