Wednesday, October 10, 2012

UChicago Crime Report: More robberies and thefts

Another cold weekday night, another series of worrisome crimes. The Incident Report just keeps challenging our assumptions about crime timing and temperature.

Incident Location Date/Time Occurred Comment
Theft from Person 5300 S. Kimbark 10/9/12 10:08 AM Male subject grabbed woman's purse and fled / Suspect apprehended by UCPD officer / Charged with theft
Robbery Stony Island between 57th & 59th St. 10/9/12 6:49 PM Two males forcibly took cell phones from a man walking on the sidewalk and a woman standing at a bus stop off campus/ Both suspects arrested by UCPD

From a research and data perspective, morning attacks are always a surprise. The vast majority of crime occurs in the afternoon or evening, with peak hours generally falling around 4:00 PM, 6:00 PM, and 10:00 PM (depending on your neighborhood and area). Obviously, if you are a victim, perpetrator, or an arresting officer, the "average" incident times starts to seem silly. Each of those three roles knows that violence does not follow a schedule. But from a macro law enforcement and social services perspective, it is useful to know when most criminal activity happens.

Until you are a victim (or attacker/arrester), it is tempting to trust the data and let it inform your daily activities. Most pedestrians are more alert at 10:00 PM than 10:00 AM. The Tuesday crime at 10:08 AM suggests that time-specific awareness may not be the best self-defense strategy. As much as we researchers twitter about peak crime times and other statistics, a solo criminal will often not adhere to the expected statistical value. An individual can commit a crime at any time. It is only when looking at hundreds or thousands of those individuals do larger patterns emerge. Those numbers are supremely useful, but only for dictating policing, education, and community engagement strategies. When it comes to personal safety, they lose relevance.

Always be aware and alert no matter what time it is. At 10:00 AM, you should still be trying to identify sudden footfall behind you, screeching tires, mutters around corners, unusual shadows, and suspicious individuals. At 10:00 PM, the only thing that changes is that you need to do all of this in the dark. Your level of awareness does not change. You are just considering a few more factors.

One of the most dangerous places on the savannah is a watering hole. After a long day of walking and tromping, families of gazelles, antelopes, and all the other friendly herbivores saunter over to the oasis for a quick break. You know who else knows this? All the lions and cheetahs hiding over in the shrubbery (and the gator lurking in the reeds).

Bus stops are UChicago student watering holes. After trekking a mile from campus to the #6 stops on Stony Island in the dark and cold, everyone just wants to whip out their phone and headphones while waiting for the invariably late bus. Maybe you are just texting the bus-tracker to see just how late it is running. As long as that device is out, your guard is lowered. That is fine in the campus dining halls or right before class. But it is dangerous and oblivious on a late night street.

It does not matter if you are on a crowded or empty street (well, if you are on an empty street than everything I am about to say applies doubly). Your average driver is unlikely to notice a discrete criminal demanding your property in the dark, let alone come to your rescue if he appears armed. If you are very, very lucky, they might call 911 on your behalf. Or rush to your aid with legally registered tazer drawn. But it is more likely that they will completely ignore you and drive on by.

The UCPD is launching a student awareness campaign to reduce unsafe behavior at night. Headphone and cell phone usage is at the top of its list. This is a commendable effort, although I have doubts as to how effective it will be on most students. Sadly, a lot of community members have a dim opinion of the UCPD. But if you aren't willing to listen to an officer, at least take it from your friendly neighborhood social worker martial artist.

Stay safe!


TONIGHT (Wednesday, 10/10)
8:00 PM - 9:30 PM
Henry Crown Field House, Multipurpose Room
(Bring athletic attire and closed-toe shoes)

Tonight we will work on striking drills and two-handed choke defenses.

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