January is Crime Stoppers Month. This is not just a national movement; it’s worldwide. And that’s a good thing, because being a victim of crime really sucks! In fact, Crime Stoppers International is on the lookout for many types of crime, including crimes against animals and the environment.
But back to you, winding your way through every day life, commuting through winter. Fortunately, you can stop most crime from ever befalling you by keeping one thing in mind at all times, especially if you’re alone on the streets, especially if you’re female: YOUR SAFETY! No matter how many times you may have strolled the same old streets day or night, no matter how familiar it all seems to you, stay aware and follow the simple guidelines that follow, especially pertinent to city dwellers, but also applicable to everyone.
Fortunately, really bad winter weather is a deterrent to almost anybody – unless you’re doing something fun like ice skating at Millennium Park or Maggie Daley Park. But generally, no one, including criminals, wants to dwell outdoors in nasty weather. Don’t consider yourself foolproof, however. Here are a few things to consider on the city streets in winter:
We’re still in the season of short days and long nights, so darkness is falling as the workday ends. Obviously crime happens more often in the dark than in daylight, so stay vigilant from your office to wherever you’re heading.
You may have a hood on your head and be lunging head-down into the wind or snow, which tends to block your peripheral vision. Look up and around often to see who’s nearby you. Don’t ignore a sudden nearby sound that you didn’t expect or a presence glimpsed out of the corner of your eye. Of course this is also important for traffic safety reasons, especially with bicyclers on the streets now even in winter in Chicago.
Ear muffs and snug hats can muffle noise, including someone walking too close to you. Again, stay aware of your immediate surroundings; glance around often.
Even in the city, unless the streets are extra crowded, it’s an invasion of your personal space if someone is walking right on your heels. Don’t be too timid to turn around and shoot a dirty look, use eye contact; your glare should be clearly perceived and the offender should back off. He or she could be completely innocent, or might be a would-be thief moving in for the take. Better to look like a meanie yourself than be taken advantage of by one.
Taking well-populated pedways, which have cameras, and cutting through busy buildings where there’s a prominent security guard should keep wanna-be muggers off your tail. If you feel you’re being stalked, never be embarrassed or too proud to dive into a nearby building and mention this to a security guard. It’s better to ask for assistance than expose yourself to danger; the security guard will glad to help.
One thing important about safety is to always give yourself plenty of room to maneuver if need be. It’s wise to cross the street if there’s a questionable individual looming ahead or if you think you’re being followed — and hopefully it won’t ever be necessary to have to actually run away from somebody, but if so, stay sharp and plan your route.
In the winter, there are slippery spots on the streets and sidewalks. Not every business removes the snow or ice on adjacent sidewalks as they ideally should. And sometimes after a big snowfall, snow can be piled high on the sides of the streets until it eventually melts. Keep all this in mind when planning your path, in case you wish to change course to avoid a suspicious character. Remember to wear slip-free and preferably waterproof foot-gear.
Better yet, this is a good time of year to hail or even call ahead for a taxi (or your favorite car service) instead of walking in a potentially dangerous situation. Break down and use a professional driver: Door-to-door service isn’t just a luxurious escape from the cold; it keeps you worlds safer!
See my whole series on personal safety and crime prevention suggestions. I was inspired by my father, Ralph Clarke, who wrote the definitive book on safety, “Be Safe, Girl,” for young women (though it’s useful to anyone); and much of advice in my articles was inspired by his great ideas on personal security. Better yet, subscribe to my blog and my life-enhancing articles will come to you effortlessly.
Wishing you a new year ahead that’s safe and happy!