Crime Stoppers Month – avoid winter crime


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.

Skating-3Fortunately, 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.

Wedge Building (2)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.

snowy Chicago2Better 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!


Avoiding rape — or worse (part 2) – your escape

Gals, read my previous articles on staying safe in the world. This is one of the scariest subject matters, one we don’t like to think about — but stuff like this happens out there in the world, so we must be vigilant plus know how to get away from someone who would cause harm. Following are simple, ingenious, tried-and-true suggestions, some from Ralph E. Clarke who researched this topic exhaustively and wrote a series of books on the subject of personal security.

Daddy's Book-Be Safe Girl-2nd Ed.

Make Noise

To scream or not to scream: This depends on how close you are to them and whether or not they have a weapon; if they have a gun, keep your voice low and soft and don’t make any sudden moves. If the intent is simply to get your goods, cooperate up to a point. The contents of your purse are not worth your life!

Screaming “Fire!” may actually be more help than screaming “Help!” especially in the city and these modern times – because people are sometimes wary to get involved. Yelling “Fire!” instead will draw people to the scene because most people are gapers.

As a last resort, break a window, possibly by throwing something through it; this will create noise and possibly set off an alarm system. Curious people in the vicinity will head your way for a look; it’s human nature. Just make sure to shield yourself and don’t hurt yourself when breaking glass.


If the predator has a gun and your intuition tells you he means to kidnap, hurt or do worse, as long as you are not in his firm grasp, it’s best to make a run for it. Even trained police only make four out of ten shots even at a short distance of three to nine feet. This is because shooting a gun at someone is stressful and affects aim. Chances are your foe would shoot and miss; and even if you do get hit, being further away could avoid him hitting a vital organ. Courage: Make a break for it if possible.

Run and keep running till you are safe!

Be careful where you run to: Don’t run into a dead-end alley and don’t run up; once you reach the top, there’s no place else to go. You see this common mistake in movies a lot, so keep your wits about you because blind fear can make you do stupid things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Hide, but leave yourself an escape route in case you are spotted – or be prepared to get the first strike in case you are found.

In most cases, don’t run in high heels, unless high heels are more natural to you than bare feet. If you find you have to run away from someone in your heels, if you have a second, kick them off and pick them up, depending on the pavement. You could use your shoes, especially spiked heels, as weapons.

Put obstacles between you and your chaser. Run around and around something, i.e., a parked car; there’s a chance the enemy will give up, especially if help arrives. This tactic has saved lives.

A rapist is hoping to get hold of a gal and quickly move her to another location where he can get what he wants and not have to worry about getting caught. So sometimes it’s not just an attack, it’s an abduction. Your objective is to get away and not be taken away. Women, stay on your guard and, if necessary, take action quickly.

Who’s your favorite female superhero? BE HER!

Avoiding rape — or worse! (part 1) – be a deterrent

Hopefully you have read my previous articles on personal safety and will not ever find yourself confronted by a scary attacker. If you haven’t yet, please, for your own sake, do so, so you can stay safe.

This post has vital information to ward off an assailant. I am addressing this article to women in the event of an encounter with a male aggressor. I don’t mean to leave the fellas out, as 10 percent of rapes per year happen to males. So, everyone, be careful out there!

Of course, this is not a pleasant subject, but given that every 98 seconds – basically a minute and a half – someone in America gets sexually assaulted, it’s important. Ladies, here are some statistics that can help you avoid being a victim:

The U.S. Department of Justice reports the most common time that rapists attack women is between 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. So be careful if you work late or go out after work. And strive to get your shopping done earlier during the day, like on your lunch breaks or weekends. Another time of day it’s said that rapists attack often is between 5:00 – 8:30 a.m. So be careful going to work too! In fact, whenever you are out, especially if you’re in a remote location or a more vulnerable setting, always be on your guard!

Women are more likely to be jumped and abducted from parking lots than any other locale, especially grocery store parking lots. Large indoor garages are the second most dangerous place for women to be alone. The third spot is public restrooms. Sometimes you need to be in these potentially perilous places. Be hyper-alert, listen to your intuition, be smart: use the buddy system, and if something seems suspicious, enlist the help of a security guard.

If you are the last one to leave your place of business and close it up, you could be targeted. A woman should not accept this duty if there’s a man who could do it instead. Of course, in some retail professions, it may be unavoidable. Be ultra-aware if you are in this position.

Rapists behind bars were interviewed and many similarities were found as to who they approach and how. Here’s what to watch out for:

Long-haired females are far more likely than their short-haired counterparts to grab their attention. It’s not just about a feminine appearance; it’s about the vulnerable aspect of the hair itself: Hair can be grabbed, especially in a ponytail or braid. Tuck in your hair if you’re in a high-risk situation.

Women who are dressed for easy-access make easier targets. Unfortunately, this includes skirts and dresses with no hose. Yes, that seems so unfair – we should be able to be as feminine as we want to be, especially on a hot summer day – but dress wisely. Clothing that’s easy to rip open is also something would-be creeps will notice.

Women who are otherwise preoccupied, like on the phone, digging through a purse or otherwise engaged in something distracting are all-too-easy to catch off guard and overpower.

When you walk, walk tall and with an aura of confidence: Mind your posture, hold your head up, swing your arms purposefully. Use eye contact to someone who is menacing; make it the evil eye.

Here’s something my father, Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., author of “Be Safe, Girl,” recommended: If you suspect someone is following you or even if they get way too close, be bold. Muster up your courage to face them dead-on and speak — not in a soft, small voice, but with a loud, clear tone. In fact, be mad; use a manly voice. Look directly at this person, ask a question (like the time) or  blurt out a comment about the weather – that’s a trick that could confound and throw a would-be rapist off kilter. He knows you’ve seen his face and could identify him in a line-up. This also humanizes you; you’re not just prey anymore, you’re a fellow human being. This tactic could cause him to go hunt down someone more susceptible and/or even deter him from attacking anyone.

Have your cell phone handy and always know your location; the very second you sense you may be in danger, immediately call 9-1-1 and loudly give the police your exact location! Even after an undesirable person saunters off, call 9-1-1 immediately and get to a safe place.