No doubt about it: The world has become less safe. Unfortunately this has even altered downtown Chicago where people go about their days expecting that crime will not touch their lives. Yet there’s an alertness in the air, and in these times, it’s necessary.
If you read part 1 in this series, you know my father, Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., authored “Be Safe, Girl.” He was vigilant about keeping his three teenage daughters safe. By default, I memorized and put into practice loads of safety tips from him.
- Tune in to your intuition; this is “your secret guardian.” (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” 4)
- Stay aware and alert at all times; here’s where daydreaming can be dangerous.
- “Do not look lost or afraid; walk with a sure confidence that proclaims you know exactly where you are going.” (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” 12)
- Try to keep at least one hand free.
- Especially in the city, including on public transportation, avoid eye contact with just about everybody — but especially people who seem odd or aggressive. Don’t stare or react to them; if they speak to you, ignore and hurry on your way. An exception would be if someone gets threateningly close to you, then give them a crazy glare that will scare them off.
- Try to keep enough distance (out of arm’s length) from anyone who could reach out and grab you or your possessions.
- Don’t loiter; if you window shop, remain alert.
- Beware loiterers, especially in certain areas (around liquor stores, pawn shops and transient hotels); in fact, try to avoid such districts.
- Take heavily trafficked main streets rather than lonely side streets.
- Try to stay where people could hear you should you need to call for help.
- Change your route as needed to avoid a dark doorway or other iffy spots.
- If someone is coming toward you on a desolate street, cross the street; if necessary, change direction.
- Walk in the middle of the sidewalk, neither too close to buildings or parked vehicles.
- When walking under el trains in the city, there’s not as much visibility plus if you had to call for help, you may not be heard; best take a different route.
- As a woman, I’ve been warned not to take walks in the parks nor along the lakefront alone at night. This may be equally true for a man.
- Walk at a distance from:
- garage doors,
- subway entrances,
- dark doorways,
- tall, dense shrubbery,
- parked vehicles, especially vans.
- Don’t be tempted to take potentially dangerous shortcuts — it’s important to avoid being in places where no one can see or hear you (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” 3) — but if there’s no other route, move quickly through:
- narrow walkways between buildings,
- unlit passageways,
- vacant lots,
- parking lots,
- construction sites,
- empty stores,
- unoccupied buildings,
- deserted areas,
- parks, unless they’re teeming with people,
- tunnels: often two bandits work a tunnel; one follows you in, and another waits at the other end.
Possible safe havens in case you feel threatened:
- The nearest occupied building, especially if there’s a security guard
- Heavily-occupied areas where you can lose yourself in the crowd and ask for help
- 24-hour hour convenience stores
- Gas stations
- Banking facilities (they’re loaded with cameras, especially the drive-throughs and ATMs in banks)
What is more important than your personal security? Come back again for my continuing series on walking safely – or better yet, don’t miss a beat: Follow my blog; sign up today.