I hate to say it, because Chicago is a great city offering many fun events, but recently, crime has increased in Chicago. This is likely a result of the meteorological theory known as CLASH, with the recent spike in temperatures from moderate (in the 70’s, Fahrenheit) to really hot (in the 90’s) temperatures. When night falls, especially since it’s still early summer, the temperatures fall back to comfortable again. The temptation is to be out at night when it’s pleasant, but that’s also when more criminals are out, as it’s easier to do wrong hidden in the shroud of darkness.
Fortunately we’re at the time of year when daylight lingers. And yet, there are also more homeless people out in the summertime. After dark, if they don’t have to place to retreat indoors, they are still out roaming the streets. Not that the indigent are generally dangerous, but if you are a “have” and they are a “have not,” best to avoid crossing paths with them – or any stranger – on a lonely street.
Downtown State Street used to feel perfectly safe, even late. But now it changes as darkness falls. It transforms from a crowded, touristy mecca to one that becomes inhabited with the types of people who walk down the street shouting (God forbid they would turn their hostility toward you), groups of rowdy college students spewing obscenities and acting tough (as if they expect others to move aside when they barrel along) and dudes who look and behave like thugs. It’s a real shame.
The park on State and VanBuren is especially seedy as evening approaches. A couple other downtown areas that don’t feel safe are by Clark and VanBuren and over by Wabash and Harrison as well as any area that is practically deserted and not well-lit where you need to walk by an alley or beneath el tracks. Trust your intuition.
Don’t procrastinate; get out to run errands while it is still light out (even though many stores stay open later); it’s simply safer. Bear in mind also that in the city, between tall buildings, it seems darker earlier; the sun may be shining elsewhere, but if it’s not shining on your path, you are walking after dark.
What to do if you are out at night to stay safe?
- safety in numbers,
- stay alert,
- project confidence,
- keep a safe distance from others,
- have safety devices handy — a flashlight, for instance; there are small ones good even for tiny purses.
Avoid dark districts; walk in the middle of the street until you get to a well-illuminated area.
Note moving shadows; use your peripheral vision.
Protective coloration can work to your advantage, like wearing all black at night to help you remain less visible to predators (though it’s a traffic safety hazard).
On a desolate street very late at night, it might even be wise to stay out of sight of passing cars or intimidating pedestrians, including bands of loud, rambunctious roaming groups, by ducking behind something and hiding; in this case, darkness is your friend if it can conceal you. Yes, there are for-real bullies in this world, and you needn’t be their latest plaything.
Avoid walking after midnight; this is when most violent crimes happen on the street.
If you’ve been drinking, forget walking! Yes, even if you feel you should walk awhile to sober up. Man or woman, you’re an easy target whether you think so or not! Don’t be fool-hearty; get a ride from a friend, contact Uber or hail a cab safely homeward.
Your personal security is vitally important, and so is that of your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow students. Pass what you are learning in this series of crime prevention articles along to those you care about.
To be aware of safety doesn’t mean being fearful or stifled, but rather, self-assured that you can avoid danger. “Be confident and go unafraid in the world!” (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” p. 29)