Monday, October 8, 2012

UChicago Crime Report: Armed robbery at 56th and Blackstone

Of all the violent crimes that affect UChicago students, robbery is probably the most common. We tend to have a lot of valuable property on our person at any time, and some of us tend to be fairly oblivious about our surroundings.

Incident Location Date/Time Occurred Comment
Aggravated Robbery Blackstone at 56th 10/7/12 7:40 PM Four males, implying they had handguns, took a book bag and cell phone from a man walking on the street off campus / All four suspects were arrested by UCPD

The good news is that the UCPD arrested the suspects and (presumably) returned the property to the victim. The bad news? Even though it was 38 degrees F outside, robberies are still occurring. There is a tendency amongst both community members and researchers to overvalue evidence. Historically, violent crimes happen in the summer. There are more robberies, shootings, and murders in that sweltering August temperature. Once the seasons turn with the leaves, there is a temptation to relax your guard, especially at night.

It turns out that criminals do not just hibernate during the cold months, even though there is a strong correlation between temperature and crime rates. It is true that there are fewer robberies in the fall and winter than in the summer and spring. But "fewer" does not mean "zero". The victim of last night's attack would probably not appreciate being told that violent crime is less prevalent in the cold. Statistics and averages don't mean much when you are confronted with a handgun.

From a martial perspective, the only things that should change in these cold months are the tactical details of your self-defense plan. Retain your situational awareness and your intuition. If you feel uncomfortable, get out fast. If someone looks threatening, deviate your route. Only the execution of those measures will change. Here are some considerations for the coming months:
  1. Winter clothing
    When you see your breath it is time to unpack the thick coats and the clumsy gloves. They are great for keeping you warm but they represent a new set of martial constraints and benefits. Can you sprint in boots with your school laptop bag rattling in your hand? Do you lose peripheral vision in a hat? Could you execute a kick with multiple layers on your legs? Can you consistently grab or draw a weapon with gloves on? These are all important problems to ponder in colder climates. On a more positive note, winter clothing gives you additional padding against strikes and falls. It even affords (admittedly limited) armor against some weapons. Naturally, this also benefits an attacker. More layers means more hiding places for weapons and more protection against a victim. It is your job to think about all the limitations and advantages that cold-weather clothing entails in a self-defense scenario.
  2. Icy surfacesIn the gym, it is easy to become accustomed to sure footing. We often train barefooted on expensive mats that are designed with the optimal ratios of firmness to traction to padding. Even if you practice with running/wrestling shoes, you are still doing so in a controlled environment free of ground hazards. Fall and winter pose balance nightmares. Black ice, packed snow, thick powder, and even frosted sidewalks all add a whole new degree of danger to an already dangerous self-defense situation. Try and maintain your strong, athletic bases at all times during practice. If you can't stay balanced in the gym, once you get outside you are going to look like a giraffe on an ice rink.
  3. Early darkness
    Criminals and predators love the dark. Shadows offer hiding places, anonymity, and privacy in even public areas. An earlier darkness necessitates a need for earlier awareness and vigilance in the night. For example, I am more cautious walking home from a 10:30 PM bus than to a 5:30 PM class. In early October, the sun still smiles at 5:30. By December, darkness will have already set in for roughly 30 minutes. 
As always, stay safe and be aware.

And a reminder for UChicago community members: 

Self-Defense Club starts this Wednesday (10/10) at 8:00 PM! Even if you missed us at the RSO Fair, you are still always welcome to train. Remember to bring athletic clothing and closed-toe shoes. Wednesday practice will be held in the Henry Crown Field House on the left (west) side of the Multipurpose Room.

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