THE VIOLENCE OF REPOSSESSIONS. A LOOK AT ‘REPO RAGE’
Originally Published 2009
- January 3, 2009 – Police are called to assist an agent who was assaulted by a debtor in Omro, Wisconsin
- January 5, 2009 – An agent in Leicester, Mass. Was forced at gunpoint to drop a vehicle he had just recovered
- January 9, 2009 – Jason Lee McLendon is murdered by a debtor in Birmingham, Alabama.
- January 11, 2009 – A debtor is charged with armed robbery of the recovery agency that earlier repossessed his car in Lewes, Delaware.
- January 13, 2009 – 3 recovery agents are fired at by a debtor in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
- June 14, 2008 – 2 recovery agents are fired upon by a debtor/attorney in Paso Robles, California
- January 19, 2009 – A Lake Luzerne, New York debtor pulls a shotgun on a recovery agent.
While there has always been an inherent danger associated with repossessions, the sharp increase in the report of altercations involving debtor anger has sent a shock wave through the recovery industry. As the American economy continues to decline and we hear of thousands of layoffs on a daily basis, is ‘Repo Rage’ going to become a household phrase?
Is it possible that, as millions of Americans face mounting debt, foreclosure of their homes and uncertainty of possible unemployment that a visit by the ‘Repo Man’ is the final straw that pushes them over the edge? Ervin Lupoe of Los Angeles, facing a mountain of debt and a recent firing from his job, murdered his 5 young children and his wife before turning the gun on himself. What would the scenario have been if a recovery agent had been in his driveway before he committed his heinous act?
Can the financial woes of a nation be to blame for this unnecessary violence or is it perhaps that as the number of repossessions climb to an all time high, that the level of attacks are just keeping par with statistics? Or is it the fact that we live in a microwave society where everything must be done at once and there is a push to put more agents in the field to keep up with the demands of the lenders? It was with great sadness that I read the news about the murder of the young Jason McLendon. It was met with an equal sadness when I read that he had been on the job for a relatively short period of time. Is it possible that a lack of experience and training plays a part in the some of these altercations? In no way am I blaming Mr. McLendon, that wholly falls on the hands of his murderer, but in some of the other cases, I must wonder if a lack of training and experience led to an escalation of violence. While I have never once been punched, stabbed, or shot at. I have seen a gun or two presented by a debtor. In one particular case, I was caught by a debtor in the driver’s seat of a pick up as I was doing a keyed recovery. The debtor had a weapon in his hand as he came out of the side door of the house. Because I always wrote the debtor’s first name on the palm of my hand, I quickly said his name and started talking. By the end, I was invited into his house while he called the lender, he cleaned out the truck and the recovery was completed. I firmly believe, no, I know for a fact, that my experience in dealing with debtors face to face has diffused many hostile situations.
I am certain that another increase in altercations can directly be linked to one source; Operation Repo. This television show is totally scripted and fictional. Yet when the general public watches it, they fall into that Hollywood trance and believe that what they are watching is actual footage of recoveries. I have read on some internet forums where actual agents, who do recoveries every day, still believe that the show is real! The show promotes itself with the following statement: “We take a look inside the fast-paced, high-pressure world of car repossession with a team of highly trained professionals.” So here we have a bunch of goon actors who ride around in a posse to debtors homes and instigate fights and behave like a bunch of Neanderthals. So now we have a bunch of debtors who have watched Operation Repo and expect that when we show up, the fight is on. That’s just brilliant. This is what viewer of this trash wrote on the website Yelp.com: “OMG I’m watching a TV show on truTV called OPERATION REPO. I’ve never felt so disgusted in my life over someone’s job before. I honestly believe if I had a gun and this happened to me or someone I knew I would seriously shoot him in the head. Is this seriously legal what they are doing? It’s physical violence repossessing stuff. This can’t be legal in every state. Anyone know the repo laws for DC/MD/VA regarding deadly force protecting your property?”
A bad economy, desperate debtors at the end of their ropes, the influx of under or untrained and inexperienced recovery agents to handle the ever increasing number of accounts being placed for repossession and moronic television shows that provoke debtors to violent acts… they all add up to an increasingly dangerous situation for the recovery agent.
And why does it seem that as recovery work becomes more dangerous and possibly one of the most dangerous job in the country, do the lenders keep seeking lower fees and more free services?
I have posed many questions here, but let me ask one more: What can we do about it?
Feb. 03, 2009