Bill aims to increase real estate agent safety

Posted at 5:28 PM, Feb 22, 2016

A bill has passed through a senate committee aiming to keep real estate agents safer.

The bill would make penalties tougher on violent offenders who attack a broker while they're showing a property.

"We're totally, almost totally, defenseless," agent Jenny Jerrems said. 


Detectives say 63-year-old Bruce Anthony Kotter attacked Jerrems in a bathroom while she showed him a vacant house in August. Hers was one of multiple attacks on real estate agents in Tampa Bay. 


"I never expected to be targeted. So now that we know that there's a way of targeting us, that people are actually thinking that way, I think we have to take different steps than we ever did before," she said. "You have to think, 'I can be tricked,' and that's what happened to me. I was tricked."


Right now, these attacks are second-degree misdemeanors. 


"It should be a felony, assault, sexual or otherwise, physical assault should be a felony for anybody," Jerrems said.


Now Jerrems carries mace and a Taser. Her coworker carries a gun.


"It is purely self-defense. It's a .22 Magnum, but very small. I can carry it in my pocket," Tom Schwartz said. 


Jerrems hopes harsher penalties would keep any other real estate agent from experiencing what she did.


"For me, I will always think of it and when I go through a house now I will always be ready for that to happen again," she said. 


According to National Realtor Board data, attacks against realtors are up 500 percent in the last three years. Seventy percent of the victims are women.