Police, experts share safety tips with realtors

Police hosted a free safety seminar for showing homes on Friday, teaching real estate agents the tools to fight back against attackers.

The seminar was held at the Pinellas Realtor Organization.

Earlier this month, two area realtors were robbed at gunpoint in St. Pete. One of the agents, who spoke at Friday's seminar, was tied up with zip ties and held for ransom.

"He said, 'Sorry about this.' I turned around and looked at him, and he was point a gun between my eyes," said the realtor, who did not want to be identified. "He left me in zip ties, went and held up another agent."

Neither agent was injured. The suspect in the robberies, 58-year-old Paul Pinkston, was arrested and charged with two counts of armed robbery and kidnapping.

"The key is to be aware, be aware, be aware, whether you're a realtor or not," said Cindy Lukehart, a realtor who attended the seminar.

Officer Chip Wells of the St. Pete Police Department led the workshop. He advised agents to always stay alert and take the time to protect themselves, by meeting clients at their office first to get a copy of their idea and a picture of the client next to their license plate.

"Always position yourself where you can see the exits of the property. Let the people walk through the house. Let them have their spaces, but always just be prepared," said realtor Bryan Manly.

For realtors put in a situation where they cannot avoid an attack, instructors at MA Fitness in St. Pete said knowing basic self-defense moves are critical.

"We deal with strangers every day, and we don't know them from anybody, so when we come into contact with them, we need to find out where they're coming from, are they going to cause a threat to us, and is their aim to inflict harm," said Matt Dipietro, owner of MA Fitness.

Dipietro offers a 10-week COBRA self-defense course to the public, teaching move that involve using the hands to strike the eyes and throat of an attacker, among other techniques.

More than 100 realtors signed up for the St. Pete Police safety seminar on Friday.