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SOUTH JORDAN – The killing of South Jordan real estate agent David Stokoe has prompted discussions about safety in the real estate community and how agents can look out for each other.
“The fear is real and the danger is real,” said Christy Vail, president of the Utah Association of Realtors.
Stokoe was shot and killed Thursday when he went to check on an apartment he owned at 878 E. Princeton Ave. in Salt Lake City, according to police.
On Saturday, officers arrested three people in connection with his death.
“It just is so personal — I think not just for realtors but for everyone,” Vail said. “It’s so personal because this can happen to anyone.”
Vail said safety training is a top priority for realtors, but that Stokoe’s death is causing many to reassess whether they are putting themselves in vulnerable situations by meeting clients or tenants at properties that are for sale or rent.
“I assumed I was safe and very quickly things escalated,” she said, speaking of a time earlier in her career when she was showing a home and was suddenly in danger.
She was able to escape unharmed when another agent showed up, but said the emotions from the encounter came rushing back when she heard about Stokoe’s death.
“Be aware of your surroundings at all times, and someone needs to know where you are,” she said of the lesson she learned.
The top safety reminder she wants to pass along to other realtors is to listen to their gut instincts and to not meet strangers alone.
“If you are hesitant at all, have someone accompany you,” Vail said. “Call a family member. Call your broker; someone in your office. There’s always someone who can accompany you.”
Also, before meeting a stranger at a private home or apartment, arrange to meet first at an office or nearby public place. Another option is to involve police if a situation is expected to be contentious.
“We’re always willing, as police, to go out on situations in what’s called the stand-by assist, where we’re keeping the peace,” said Salt Lake Police Detective Greg Wilking.
Wilking said the service is available for any citizen.
“Any kind of situation that you feel that you might be in danger,” he said.
“We’re real friendly here in Utah,” Vail said. “We’re a very nice people, and sometimes we’re not as cautious as we should be.”