Plan ahead, tell a friend: How real estate agents can stay safe

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has some tips for real estate agents on how to keep themselves safe.

Safety presentation comes on heels of police advisory on Barry Sinclair, acquitted in 'Sleepwatcher' case

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. Geoff Higdon says there are a number of things real estate agents can do to make themselves safer. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is offering some tips for real estate agents on how to keep themselves safe in the wake of an advisory against a man police fear may commit a serious offence.

On Monday, the RNC held a presentation for over 100 members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Realtors in St. John's. It touched on how best to stay safe in vulnerable positions.

Real estate agents often work independently, hosting open houses solo or showing homes to prospective clients at all hours of the day.

No reported incidents

Const. Geoff Higdon says there have been no reported incidents of real estate agents being harmed in anyway, but said the RNC was more than willing to do a safety presentation when approached by the association.

"It was a good chance for us to give reminders. We live in a safe city, we live in a safe province, relatively compared to other places," Higdon said Monday.

"So people often times become complacent. And we don't want to see that happen."

Higdon says real estate agents should try to pair up during open houses.

It's also important to remember that people are coming and going, so personal items should be tucked away, he said.

As for meeting clients, Higdon said there are a number of digital applications that can alert trusted friends and family to your location.

Find My Friends, an iPhone app, for instance, lets you easily locate your friends and family from any Apple product.

"We always encourage the buddy system. It's not always practical and it's not always reasonable," he said. "If you are meeting someone, let your co-workers or your spouse or someone know where you're going to be, especially during after-hours meetings."

More and more real estate agents are using social media, like Facebook, to market themselves and the homes they're listing.

But Higdon cautions putting too much about yourself online.

"A lot of people's brands are themselves ... but just be cognizant that you are visible to the public. Even when it comes to your involvement on social media sites, just be aware."

Realtors contacted by police, association says

Similar presentations have been held for agents in other parts of the province, but this one holds particular weight, in light of a police advisory on Barry Edward Sinclair.

Sinclair now lives in St. John's, but in 2012 was found not guilty of voyeurism charges related to the so-called Halifax "sleepwatcher" case.

Barry Edward Sinclair is pictured at provincial court in St. John's. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is seeking a rare type of peace bond against Sinclair, over fears that he "will commit a serious personal injury offence." (Cal Tobin/CBC)

A Nova Scotia judge convicted Sinclair of another break-in, and sentenced him to five years imprisonment. He's served that time, and was released from custody in February.

The RNC has indicated it's worried that he will re-offend, and has gone to court to get a peace bond against Sinclair, to restrict his movements.

A hearing will be held in January on the RNC's application.

In the meantime, Sinclair has signed an undertaking, agreeing to abide by more than a dozen conditions — one of which is to refrain from having contact with female real estate agents.

Bill Stirling, CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Realtors, confirms some real estate agents have been contacted by police over specific concerns.

However, Stirling said the association wasn't given any further details.