You Can't Be Too Safe

I don’t shop often, but when I do, I buy in bulk. The 23 pudding cups and seven tubes of Aquafresh still in my closet—compliments of a shopping spree at Costco—are a testament to this.

So when a guy came into the office last year to talk about self-defense—and, of course, to peddle safety-related products—I thought ‘why not add some pepper spray to the mix?!’

As the gentleman began pulling the various sprays and gadgets out of his Mary Poppins suitcase and demonstrating how each of them worked, I began signing a blank check.

Many of my female co-workers made modest, sensible purchases. A key-chain pepper spray, a pepper spray masquerading as a tube of lipstick, a pepper spray masquerading as a fountain pen—small items that would give them that extra boost of confidence.

I felt like I needed more.

Two minutes and $116 later, I found myself back in my cube, staring at the self-defense family pack I had suddenly amassed. Pepper sprays of various potencies, a fogger, a “Call 911” banner, an earpiece that would emit a piercing shriek should I accidentally doze off while driving—I had them all.

Fortunately, I have never had to use anything I purchased—a real blessing since the entire kit has yet to leave my closet, where it fights for space with the pudding cups.

Sadly, other people aren’t so lucky.

Every so often, we are horrified to hear about a female leasing agent who was attacked by a “prospective resident.” Such crimes are not always preventable, but there are several procedures that can be put in place to help create a safer environment.

Following are three:

1. Require Proper ID.

Multifamily consultant Anne Sadovsky, CAM, CAPS, says that it is wise for all management companies to post a sign in the leasing office that reads, “We require a current government-issued photo ID before showing an apartment. Thank you for your cooperation.” Leasing agents should remind prospective residents who call for an appointment to bring an ID.

 

Although it is legal—and advisable—to require identification, Sadovsky says apartment professionals must avoid doing so in a way that could be construed as a fair housing violation. If you photocopy the ID, return both the actual ID and the copy to the prospective resident after the tour.

 

2. Don’t Let Them Know You’re Alone

 

Sadvosky says leasing professionals should never acknowledge or give the impression that they are alone in the office—even if they are.

 

“Have a radio playing in back room and step around the corner and say, ‘I am going out to show apartment No. 201,’ ” says Sadovsky.

 

Also never tell a prospective resident that you can’t show them an apartment because you are alone. If you feel uncomfortable, make up an excuse and ask them to re-schedule.

 

3. Pick a Safe Time and Place

 

Leasing professionals should never give property tours after hours, after dark or in remote areas.

 

Brent Sobol, who owns 1,100 apartments in Atlanta, says companies should also consider creating a model that is close to the leasing or management office, where crimes are less likely to occur.

 

Additionally, a female leasing professional should not show an apartment to a group of men if she’s alone. Bring a second leasing agent with you or ask a maintenance technician to accompany you if necessary.

 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, trust your instincts and use common sense.

 

And clean out your closet.

 

For six additional tips to improve employee safety, check out my article, “You Can’t Be Too Safe,” in the April issue of units, which mails April 8.