In the hit show Criminal Minds, criminologists and profilers use behavioral science and a fact-based approach to prevent predators from continuing to victimize their targets. Now the same knowledge and experience that inspired the hit show is changing how the real estate industry approaches agent safety.
Traditionally, the industry’s approach to agent safety was based on the assumption that crime against agents was like opportunistic street crime and that the criminals victimizing agents were easily identifiable. These assumptions were incorrect and resulted in critical errors in agent safety.
Lee Goldstein, the behavioral criminologist who founded Real Safe Agent in 2014, opened the eyes of many people in the industry. The impact of Goldstein and Real Safe Agent on the industry has been dramatic — NAR’s new safety course is largely based on Goldstein’s research and ideas.
NAR’s safety committee has started an initiative to implement Safety Fields in the MLS, an idea first introduced in the book Aegis, published by Real Safe Agent. Real Safe Agent’s books Aegis: A Comprehensive Agent Safety Analysis and Guide for Real Estate Associations, MLS, & Brokerages and Safe Selling: A Practical Guide to Preventing Crime without Sacrificing the Sale (co-written by Dave Legaz) are now part of the NAR free library. Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of this story is that Goldstein and Real Safe Agent have provided their knowledge, research, experience, books, and materials at no charge to the industry.
With rare exceptions, crime against agents is a predatory crime and meets all the classic predatory behavior patterns, from victim shopping to research and emotional gratification. Additionally, for the overwhelming majority of predators, this is an obsessive-compulsive behavior. Clearly, these are not opportunistic crimes committed by impulsive criminals.
The effects of inaccurate assumptions about the nature of the crime against agents have been devastating. For years, the industry’s safety training has been based on situational awareness. Situational awareness was designed for combat and focuses on being aware of the impact of your physical environment or surroundings on your present situation. By the time your physical surroundings come into play, you’re already alone in the house with the predator. Crime against agents is a predatory crime and situational awareness does not address issues and topics pertinent to preventing predatory crime specific to the real estate industry.
Another negative impact of incorrect assumptions was the introduction of reactive safety tools, such as timers, that are designed to alert people after the attack has already occurred or is imminent. This is not staying safe, it’s telling people where to start searching.
Another good example of safety tools based on inaccurate assumptions is commercially available instant criminal history background checks. The NCIS is the gold standard of criminal history databases, but only one-third of convictions are sent to it, and only one-third of those have final dispositions which are necessary for instant background checks. Even then, 30% of those have data errors that prevent accurate retrieval. This is on top of the fact that the average predatory rapist will victimize ten people before he is even arrested, let alone convicted, of any sexually oriented crime. All this is aside from the obvious potential fair housing issues that arise at the intersection of real estate and criminal history background checks due to disparate impact issues.
So how do you stay safe and how do you evaluate safety products as a real estate agent?
The first step to staying safe is understanding that predators follow behavior patterns designed to set you up to be their victim, and they need to get you isolated where you can’t be seen or heard by others. You stay safe by learning how to identify and disrupt the predator’s behaviors and prevent them from luring you into a position where you can’t be seen or heard by others. You evaluate safety products based on a primary question: “Knowing what I now know, how will this product prevent the crime?”