November 9, 2017 11:10 pm

After being attacked at open houses, B.C. realtor creates app to protect people who work alone

WATCH: A local woman has developed an app to protect realtors and others who work alone. John Hua explains how it works.

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As a realtor, Merideth Schutter knows, working alone is part of the job. Four years ago at an open house, two predators decided to close in on her while she was at work.

“I was targeted,” she said. “I had two gentlemen come into an open house, lock the door. One pushed me into the kitchen and the other locked the door.”

Bystanders were able to intervene. The same men made a second attempt at another open house; once again, someone came to her aid.

“I went home and thought, OK, I’m lucky. I wasn’t raped, I wasn’t assaulted, I wasn’t murdered, but I was at a crossroads. Do I leave this job that I love [or] do I stay and find a solution?”

Schutter’s solution was to put the power back into her hands by creating a smartphone app.

WATCH: Surrey RCMP investigate alleged sexual assault of realtor during open house

PROtect sends notifications to a list of emergency contacts when a user failed to check in for a scheduled event, signalling that something may have gone wrong.

“In [the app], they’re going to find out my cellphone battery life, where I am — which is constantly updating — and a map to get to me,” she said.

Jill Oudil of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver welcomes the new app, saying “we’re constantly looking at different technology to help the realtor in these situations.”

WATCH: How realtors can protect themselves in open houses and private showings

There have been several assaults against agents at open houses in recent years.

Victoria’s Lindsay Buziak was stabbed and killed during a Saanich open house in 2008.

“Even last year, we had a woman realtor attacked at an open house so we’re very cognizant that this is a very important issue,” Oudil said.

The app can be used once a week for free or an unlimited number of times with a monthly subscription.

Schutter hopes the app means she won’t have to quit her day job out of fear.

– With files from John Hua

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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