JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The missing realtor case from Pulaski County has put the real estate community on alert.
"We're vulnerable all the time so there's always going to be a possible situation," said RE/MAX executive broker Debbie Finley. "We just have to be smart."
Finley said safety has to start before a realtor shows a home.
"By the time you get to the house, it's too late," Finley said. "If someone wants to attack me, I'm probably not going to be able to defend myself."
That's why Finley said she never meets strangers for the first time at the listing. Instead, she looks them up online and meets them in her office.
"I would ask the right questions and if you're legitimate, you don't mind answering those questions," Finley said.
If they pass, she then meets the potential clients at the house, usually with another realtor in tow.
"I just don't want to be stupid," she said. "I want to go above and beyond to make sure I'm safe."
Finley said she is aware of her surroundings at all times, from the driveway to the second floor of the home.
"I'm not going to get trapped in a corner somewhere," Finley said. "I'm not going to be the first one in the house. I'm going to make sure I park where if I need to get away quickly. I'm not going to be blocked in."
However, she said it is still easy to become distracted.
"Sometimes we're so focused on doing the right thing with the client, the paperwork that we get wrapped up in that and forget we still have to be on guard," she said.
Finley always tries to minimize distractions.
"If you were a stranger and you were a male, I would probably let you go around and do your tour of the home and we'd meet back here [at the front door]," she said. "The main thing, especially for the newest realtors in the business, is don't get trapped."
In case something would happen, Finley makes sure her co-workers and family know exactly where she is at all times.
"Because at the end of the day, we want to go home with our families," she said.
So far, these safety precautions have worked.
"This is my 36th year to sell homes and I've never been afraid or had to be afraid," Finley said. "That could change tomorrow but we've been so lucky here in Jonesboro."
She said realtors are not as vulnerable alone at open houses, but all of these precautions should still come in play.
"Just think safety, safety, safety," Finley said. "We want to believe the best in everybody but in this day and time, we need to be prepared."