Realtors warn about man stealing from open houses

Realtors warn about man stealing from open houses

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An award ceremony on Thursday gives Baton Rouge realtors a chance to celebrate their accomplishments.

"I think I should win maybe three or four of them [Awards]. Hopefully, good luck to me," said Alvin Cain, a realtor with Keller Williams.

But on a much different note, there's something else on their minds. It's the latest reminder of the dangers of working with the public.

"Especially so close to home and where we work, it's extremely uneasy. A lot of times, before all these things started happening we would freely go and show houses to anyone," said Nikki Calmes, a realtor.

Baton Rouge Police say Sunday afternoon in the Woodland Ridge neighborhood off of Sherwood Forest Blvd., a man went to an open house, but not as an interested buyer. He went as a thief.

Police say he gave a fake name, went to the master bedroom and stole some jewelry. Realtors also accuse the man of stealing medications. The realtor there saw it happen, but the man still got away.

The Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors recommends agents always follow a few steps to stay safe.

- If possible, always try to have at least one other person working with you at the open house.

- Avoid attics, basements, and getting trapped in small rooms.

- Check your cell phone's strength and signal prior to the open house.

- Have emergency numbers programmed on speed dial.

- Upon entering a house for the first time, check all rooms and determine several “escape” routes.

- Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape.Make sure that if you were to escape by the back door, you could escape from the backyard.

- Frequently, high fences surround yards that contain swimming pools or hot tubs.Have all open house visitors sign in.

- Ask for full name, address, phone number and email.When showing the house, always walk behind the prospect. Direct them; don't lead them.

- Say, for example, “The kitchen is on your left,” and gesture for them to go ahead of you.

- Notify someone in your office, your answering service, a friend or a relative that you will be calling in every hour on the hour. And if you don't call, they are to call you.

- Inform a neighbor that you will be showing the house and ask if he or she would keep an eye and ear open for anything out of the ordinary.

- Don't assume that everyone has left the premises at the end of an open house. Check all of the rooms and the backyard prior to locking the doors.

- Be prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.

The board says what happened Sunday is not an isolated case. Other realtors are reporting similar experiences at more and more open houses.

BRPD say they know who this man is. They got his license plate number, but they have not release his name at this time.

Police say if arrested, he could potentially face felony theft charges.

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