Realtors are being warned after a man attacked a woman during a property showing on the weekend.
At about 4:10 p.m., Saturday, a realtor was sexually assaulted in North Surrey while she was holding an open house.
The woman was able to fight off the unknown attacker. The man then fled.
The suspect is described as an East Indian man in his late 20s to mid-40s, 5’5″ to 5’8″, with brown eyes and a dark well-groomed beard. He was wearing dark-coloured pants and a light-coloured shirt at the time. He had a white turban on and spoke with an accent.
Surrey RCMP Sgt. Alana Dunlop couldn’t say whether the attacker was injured by the woman’s defensive moves, or whether evidence was left at the scene, noting the investigation is still in the early stages.
The female realtor was not physically injured, but police are assuming she’s emotionally shaken by the attack.
It’s not the first time something like this has happened in B.C. – or Surrey.
In October 2007, another female real estate agent was showing a property in Surrey to two men she thought were prospective buyers. She was tied up and robbed before she was able to free herself and run to a nearby home for help.
Then in 2008, Lindsay Buziak died from multiple stab wounds in a home she was showing in Victoria.
President-elect of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB), Gopal Sahota, said the most recent occurrence in Surrey was “very unfortunate.”
He said what happened is a rare occurrence and that there hasn’t been a report of an attack on a realtor while at work in the region since 2007.
He said the FVREB knows little about the weekend assault, adding the RCMP hasn’t contact the organization yet. The FVREB doesn’t know who was attacked.
“Other realtors are talking about it,” Sahota said, noting the “conversations need to be had when something does happen.”
He notes when incidents do occur, they typically involve females, but he warned both men and women need to exercise caution when showing homes.
The FVREB recommends using a buddy system wherever possible, he said.
Sahota emphasized, however, that the majority of the public is well-behaved.
“The criminal element, when they’re going to act on their criminal leanings, it’s really unfortunate,” Sahota said.
The FVREB is offering safety tips for realtors and is hosting a self-defence course next month. It will be held on May 24 at the FVREB offices near 104 Avenue and 154 Street. The course is for members only and will cost $40. Register through the learning centre at https://tlc.fvreb.bc.ca/index.php/login
Dunlop said the advice from police is the same they would offer anyone in a similar situation.
“You have to consider that when you’re advertising something publicly, the public can access it, and that can be anybody,” Dunlop said Monday. “The way you guard your safety in the public, you have to apply those principles in those (semi-private) situations as well.”
In general, the public should always be aware if they see something suspicious.
“Be aware of your surroundings,” Dunlop said. “Just because you are in a home, it doesn’t mean you need to put your guard down.”
She noted there’s no evidence the realtor on the weekend was less than cautious, but said it’s always good to “really have your personal safety in mind.”
Anyone with information about the attack, or anyone who saw anything unusual in the neighbourhood on Saturday afternoon, is asked to call Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or www.solvecrime.ca
Safety tips for realtors:
• Your cellphone can be your best friend in a bad situation. Program 911 on your speed dial.
• Have a pre-arranged distress signal. For example, “I’m at the Jones house and I need the red file right away.” Share and practise your distress code with your office, colleagues, family and friends. Use it any time you feel uneasy.
• Tell someone who you are with, where you are going and when you will be back. Make sure someone else knows what your schedule is and who you’re planning to meet.
• Limit the amount of personal information you share. Do not use your home phone number; use a cellphone number instead. Use your office address rather than your home address.
• When you have new clients, meet them at the office first. Verify their identities. Note their car make and model, and licence plate number, and if you can, photocopy their driver’s licence. Complete a client identification orm. A serious client will not hesitate to share this information.
• Often at an open house, you’ll be working alone. You won’t know who will show up, so take basic precautions to ensure your personal safety.
– the Canadian Real Estate Association