27 October 2009

Being safe in the big city

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Chicago

Let’s be honest, crime doesn’t just happen in the big city, it happens everywhere.

And being a single girl living in the city without a car, sometimes walking home after dark or bar time, you always have to be careful.

Friends and I have a strict system when we split from the group after dark. We text one another when we get home and make sure that if a street is dark, we walk down the middle of it (watching for cars) so we’re always in a well-lit area. And of course, if we feel unsafe, just get in a cab and make sure the driver he waits until you walk into your building.

This isn’t a perfect system but it works for us.

In Chicago, I always thought that “incidents” were more likely to happen after bar time, because, well my judgement has been clouded in beer and…more beer. But while reading the RedEye last week, it turns out that the early hours of the morning aren’t actually peak time for crime. The time with the highest amount of incidents is 9:00 – 10:00 p.m.

I re-read the story twice and I found that shocking and almost unnerving. The idea that I’m more vulnerable early in the evening really took me by surprise. So why is the Top Chef time such a hotbed for crime? According to the story, it says that people drink more in the evening and may reach an “optimal level of intoxication” early.

Hmm, drunk by 9 p.m.? Yes, I’ve been there but I still always feel more on guard when I’m leaving the bar, stumbling around, digging through my purse, giggling and making one last-ditch effort to make out with a guy.

But what I got overall from this article, always be on guard because there is no really “safe” time.

That means, being aware of your surroundings, walking in well-lit areas and not listening to your iPod or talking on the phone. Sadly though, I am guilty of these last two items on a regular basis. My boss even gave me pepper spray to carry around and I thought about taking a self defense class, but do they actually work in an emergency?

So do you have a system when you’re out with your friends? This applies to even non-major city people. In Wisconsin I definitely wasn’t safe when walking to my car. Fortunately (knock on wood) I’ve been lucky so far.

F*ck you scale: Wow, thank you everyone for the feedback to yesterday’s post. I’m glad I’m not the only one who hates the weigh in and there were a lot of good tips about getting back on track food and exercise-wise. I’ve started mixing up my gym routine so we’ll see how this goes!


  1. blaez says:

    i don’t feel safe even in my own home sometimes when i hear of people breaking into the houses and killing folks.

  2. Doniree says:

    Sometimes I feel as though I’m safer when I’m on my phone because if anything were to happen to me, someone would hear it. But then, maybe I would be less likely to notice if something were to happen?

    My friend in college and I used to have a system where we’d call each other when we left work. I worked at a mall and it wasn’t too long after Dru Sjodin had been kidnapped at that mall in North Dakota. My roommates didn’t always know where I was, so I’d call my friend and be like “just so you know, I’m leaving Southdale now, I’ll text you when I get home” etc. It made us both feel better.

  3. It’s weird, but I’ve always felt safe going home/walking out of bars etc. But my friends always make sure I call them when I get home.

  4. E.P. says:

    I would have never thought that 9-10 was the prime time for crime. Scary!

    I think it’s smart that you and your friends have a system. That’s important.

    There isn’t much crime in my little town — we have less than 50K people — but whenever it happens, I’m there to cover it. And that makes me hyper-aware of my surroundings because I’ve been to those crime scenes. And that freaks me out a little.

  5. Selma says:

    I agree…crime happens everywhere!!! My friends and I do the same thing when we split and walk home at night (no car for me in this town), and it works for us, too. I do have to try the walking on the road. I walk on well lit areas only even though the walk takes longer. 9pm?! Wow. So need to pay more attention.

  6. Elle says:

    It’s tough being a girl in the city and walking home late at night. The whole iPod thing is just something I refrain from doing when it’s dark out or even a not so busy area. It truly is important to just be aware of your surroundings at all times.

  7. I’m definitely extra-sensitive to this because I was assaulted a few years ago — and it was in the morning at the el stop (while I was walking up the stairs!). I don’t have any particular system, but I just try to be very aware of my surroundings at all times & when I’m alone at night, I always keep my keys in the eye-stabbing position.:) Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things you have to deal with when you live in the city.

  8. katelin says:

    i watch way too many crime shows, so i’m pretty much always on high alert, haha.

  9. MinD says:

    I wear “rose-colored glasses” and tend to always believe I feel safe. I should change that.

  10. A Super Girl says:

    Since I moved into Detroit, I’ve been increasingly aware of this. Unlike other major cities, downtown Detroit has very little foot traffic after the work day ends. It’s entirely possible for you to be walking alone on a major street. Luckily, violent crime in Detroit tends to take place in the neighborhoods and tends to not be random (amazing, I know!) so the city center is actually relatively safe. Petty crime like car break-ins seems to be the greater issue in my neighborhood.

    But, I still walk with my head up, constantly looking around me. I keep the iPod off after dark, and will go out of my way to avoid walking close to people (this is of course easier in Detroit than Chicago since there’s not many people out!)

    I’ve also heard that if you feel someone is following you, you should stop, turn around, and look at them…instead of speeding up your walk. Then they know that you’ve seen them and may be less inclined to approach you because you could give the cops a description :-) I think it also shows confidence instead of weakness.

  11. jenn says:

    you just have to be SO careful. last night on the milwaukee news they were talking about muggings all over the UW-Milwaukee campus right around midnight – and it happened when girls were walking in pairs. we feel too safe just because there’s someone else around and that’s not always a good thing!!

  12. Thankfully, I have a really good group of friends who are always looking out for each one of us (well, back in the day when I still lived in NJ).

    We used to always go to the bathroom or wherever in pairs or a group and watch each other’s drinks.

  13. Kyla Roma says:

    Ha, would it be lame to say I stopped going to the bar when I was 19? There are just so few here and you know everyone… =)

    My main tactic is to buy my own drinks, I always watch my drink, and I don’t seperate from my friends. I know a number of people who’ve been drugged, so it’s all defensive drinking about- and if you want to just go totally wild, we do it with friends at our place.

  14. Kate says:

    I was obsessed with taking cabs everywhere when I first moved to Chicago due to safety reasons and not really knowing where I was. Interesting since I went to college in a pretty dangerous town and was totally fine with walking to the convenience store to buy smokes at 3 a.m. Anyway, then I became the exact opposite, taking trains and buses home at midnight or 1 a.m., often by myself. Probably not the smartest idea, but definitely cheaper and I was very lucky nothing happened to me in the seven years I lived there.

  15. I’m from a really small town, so growing, my perception was that cities were this vicious hotbed of crime. It was weird how quickly my attitudes changed. Sure, I lock my doors and such, but I am a little complacent about all those things I always said I would never do, like walking home or riding the bus late at night. Sometimes they are just somewhat unavoidable, or I stubbornly feel like giving it if I don’t do them.
    That being said, it only takes one scary story to shock you back into reconsidering your decisions. This weekend, at 6pm, at the main bus/train station I’m at every weekday, somebody went on what the media described as a “stabbing spree”, starting with some random guy waiting for the bus I ride every day. How does one even prepare for that?

    PS. Hi. I miss your posts. They always elicit a lot of thought!

  16. Bing says:

    Since I live in Atlanta, I don’t often end up walking places alone, especially late at night. But I can see how that 9-10 p.m. time is a high crime time. Think about when you go out with friends during the week, that’s the time frame you all end up splitting up to go home. Everyone has their own cars. On a weekend, you’re more likely to carpool or share a cab because you are heading to the same place.

    If I’m alone at night, I try to keep my cell handy in case I need to make a call. I also always take my keys out of my purse before I get outside and walk with the key clamped in my fist, with the long part sticking out. You never know when you may need to jab a potential attacker’s eye out!

    I’d get pepper spray. I used to have it, and it helped make me feel a little safer when I was out alone.

  17. Nora says:

    When I’m by myself I carry my phone with me, in my hand, in case I need to call/dial someone. I have pepper spray in my pocket as well. I’ve taken a self defense class before but honestly, I don’t think I’d remember how to use it in an emergency situation!

    StL has crime everywhere. Over the summer there was a rash of break-ins in my parents neighborhood, mostly in cars that were parked in driveways/street rather than being in a garage. I’ve just learned to keep my head, glance around me often, and be as prepared as possible. Not foolproof but I feel better about it!

    I honestly wouldn’t have guessed most things happen between 9-10pm each night, though. How odd!?

  18. Lollygagger says:

    I pretty much always take cabs and rarely walk alone, and if I do it’s on a well-lit and busy street.

  19. SoMi's Nilsa says:

    I thin it’s easy for people to get complacent about crime. People in rural areas say crime only happens in the city. People living in certain areas of the city say crime happens in less-safe areas of the city and so on. From my personal experience, crime happens everywhere. At all times of the day and night. To say you are only more vulnerable after drinking is a real shame. Because watching the news, many of the victims I see haven’t even been near a bar.

  20. Abby says:

    I’m always hypervigilant. My best friend was mugged at gunpoint at 7:30am while scraping ice off her windshield. There’s never a “safe” time.

  21. I definitely do the walking in the middle of the road! And I always have my cell phone out. Some of my housemates have cars so they’re usually willing to pick me up if I’m at the library late, or we’ll just plan on going home together. Also my school has a late-night service with the police and they’ll escort you home if you want. In terms of being in Boston late, I’m always with a group of people so I guess I’m less on guard, but bad things could definitely still happen.

  22. Maxie says:

    I’m pretty unsafe. I try to keep my purse close by, but other than that I’m kind of a mess.

  23. Michelle says:

    My father made me bring pepper spray with me to college, and asks constantly if I still have it. I go to college in Western Massachusetts, where there are more cows than people, and even though no where is “exempt” from crime, we have a very very small rate of crime-type incidents. The biggest thing to worry about at small rural schools like mine is not using your judgment with people you leave parties with or even know pretty well…while I’ve never heard of anyone from my school being robbed or chased or followed by a creepy slow-moving vehicle, many people go home with other students only to regret it later. A different type of danger I suppose.

  24. Jessica says:

    I go to school in a pretty dangerous area, so I’m always on guard. Incidents happen daily at my school, but I don’t really worry about it. When I walk to the train at night, I don’t put my iPod on and I usually hold my cell phone in case i need to make an emergency call.

  25. lbluca77 says:

    As a city girl I know exactly what you mean with your safety system. it is so important, even if at times it can be annoying or inconvenient, it is so important.

    And yes, crime happens everywhere. I should know my bike was stolen from my yard today. Damn thugs.

  26. mandy says:

    I’m completely guilty of not really paying attention. Because I live in a small town I like to think I’m exempt from things like this but the truth is I’m not. Much like your friends, we have a system — texting to let the others know that we made it home safely, actually walking others out to their cars if they decide to leave early, just keeping an eye out on each other.

  27. i don’t have to worry too much about it where i am with a car… but in ireland i was always walking alone back from the pubs or just hanging out at a friends. i made sure i lived along a bigger road that was lit and did the textng thing as soon as i got home.

    and i just took taxis home from the city centre a lot even for the 1/2 mile walk because it made me feel safer.