Saturday, June 23, 2012

UChicago Crime Report: 57th and Woodlawn Robbery Alert!

Woke up to this email from UCPD commander Marlon Lynch. Some of you might have gotten it, but for those who did not, it's important to know.

Security Alert : June 23, 2012 

At approximately 12:45 a.m., Saturday, June 23 – a victim not affiliated with the University walking west on the sidewalk on 57th Street between South Woodlawn and South Kimbark was approached by two males, one of whom was armed with a handgun. The suspects took the victim’s back pack and ran west on 57th Street. 
The suspects immediately approached a University student walking east on 57th Street between South University and South Woodlawn and took her purse before fleeing south in the west alley of Woodlawn. The suspects may have escaped in a waiting 4-door blue vehicle seen parked in the alley. The preliminary investigation has revealed information that may lead to suspects. Neither victim was injured.

That's probably the safest area you can get in Hyde Park without actually being on the UChicago quads. Don't let your guard down even, or especially, if you are somewhere that is supposedly 'safe'.

Also, this is one of those alerts that is obnoxiously and harmfully politically correct (a style shared by the UCPD and the Chicago Tribune). There is no decent description of the attacker. Hell, there's no description of the attackers AT ALL. No height, no clothing, no skin color, nothing. And don't go and tell me that those aren't important details. Two males who concealed a handgun? Based on the "two male" description, I saw probably 15 pairs of people that matched that description the other night while walking back from dinner.

It is a bit of a generalization, but I would be willing to bet that the attackers were black precisely because the UCPD did not report on their race. That has nothing to do with any string of racist thought, and everything to do with the fact that it might be politically incorrect to make that racial statement in an official UCPD communication. If it had been two white guys, I guarantee you that this would be noted; that would be a remarkable demographic anomaly, especially in this area. \

In light of this oversight by the UCPD, I have sent an email to their suggestion address: I for one walk around the area at all times of day (when I can tear myself away from the DOTA 2 beta) and would feel much safer knowing what these attackers looked like. Here is the email as I am sending it. Hopefully I hear back from the Department soon. It's hardly Hemingway, but it gets the point across.

Dear UCPD,

My name is Sheridan Lardner, and I am both a graduate of the College here, and currently a grad student working towards my social work degree at UChicago.. To start, I really appreciate the security alerts that you send out to students now and in the past. I teach the UChicago self defense club, and I always direct my students to the daily incident reports and the security alerts that your department issues.

The recent security alert on June 23, concerning two robberies, was timely and informative. Unfortunately, it did not include any description of the attackers. The community would be safer if it knew the height, build, clothing, and complexion of the perpetrators. I understand that witness reports may be sketchy and inexact on this matter, and that there might be inconsistencies in the descriptions by the victims. There might also be protocols concerning the politically correct way to describe the alleged perpetrators of a crime. But even some basic information would help students and community members be safer.

Thanks for your consideration in the matter. Keep up the great work.


Monday, June 11, 2012

UChicago Crime Report: LOTS of UChicago and Downtown Robberies

This was an ugly weekend. Over 6 or 7 killed and 40 others wounded in shootings across the city (And by that, we mean in the South and West Side neighborhoods that always get featured in such stories). I'm not going to give any comment on CPD strategy until the beleaguered police superintendant Garry McCarthy makes his own statement early this week to try and do damage control. I am, however, going to talk about robberies. In some cases, it was the usual 1-3 guys with a gun. But downtown saw a different breed of robbery: Packs of 10-20 people descending on victims and beating them to the ground.

Magnificent Mile Robbery 1: Right behind the Museum of Contemporary Art
800 Block of DeWitt Avenue, near Chicago Avenue,0,3063104.story

Magnificent Mile Robbery 2: One block south of the Grand/Chicago Red Line stop
500 Block of North State Street,0,7863065.story

Loop Attack: Right at the State/Lake Red Line stop,0,7863065.story

In each case, a mob of at least 7 people and as many as 15-20 attacked single victims with fists and feet. None of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries, although the second Mag Mile victim has a broken jaw and is being treated at Northwestern Memorial downtown.

Then there was the UChicago stuff. Fewer people, less high profile, but even more worrisome for community members that remain here over the summer. And boy were there a lot of them on Sunday.

Incident Location Date/Time Occurred Comment
Aggravated Robbery Dorchester between 53rd & 54th 6/10/12 2:40 AM An unknown male, implying he had a weapon, took property from two women walking on the sidewalk
Aggravated Robbery 52nd between Woodlawn & Kimbark 6/10/12 3:55 AM An unknown male, implying he had a weapon, took property from four women on the sidewalk
Robbery 60th at Ellis 6/10/12 12:00 PM Two males forcibly took a man's back pack and ran off / Both suspects were immediately arrested by UCPD officers
Theft from Person Cottage Grove at 62nd 6/10/12 11:20 AM Male subject grabbed cell phone from the hand of a woman as she exited a CTA bus

I don't recall having to report so many incidents in one post since this blog's creation. That is a LOT of robberies! Yes, the UCPD chose to classify one as a Theft, but for all intents and purposes of local students, that one should also effectively be a robbery.

    I have been downtown, sometimes in the exact location of the attack, at the exact time that those attacks were said to occur. There are lots of people around to both witness and help. But they won't. Unless it would imperil me or the victim further, I certainly would help out. I train with people that would help out. But do not count on there being such concerned citizens nearby. Attackers and predators know that the average person will not respond to a show of force. They know that the average bystander will do just that: Stand by and watch without intervening. Do not get lulled into a sense of security just because you see people.
    Sound paranoid? Well, as my mother always told me, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Do not assume that downtown is safe. Do not put on your blinders, take out your phone, and leave your awareness and martial faculties on the South Side. Downtown attacks are alarmingly common during the summer, when groups of young men journey to the Loop from their South and West Side communities (the man charged in one robbery is from 59th and Indiana in Englewood) to have fun, make a buck, and cause havoc for the oblivious white people on the Mag Mile. If you expect that this can happen, ESPECIALLY on a weekend, then you will be that much safer.
  3. MORE ROBBERIES OCCUR NORTH OF 55th THAN DO TO THE SOUTHThere is an obnoxious misconception on campus that the houses south of the Midway are in a constant state of siege. This is not without logical underpinnings; Woodlawn is not a safe neighborhood, so the closer you are to it, the more danger you are in. In reality, the stats seem to show that Merry and Pippin had the right idea: The closer you are to danger, the farther you are from harm. In the past few months, and over the past years, the area between 56th and 52nd, bounded by Stony Island and Ellis, sees way more robberies than does the Midway/South Campus area.
    There are some reasons for that. For one, it is a lot easier for UCPD cars to patrol the borders of the school. The south campus is a border area, and we have cards zooming by every ten minutes. Incidentally, there aren't too many robberies down here (although there are some). The heart of Hyde Park with all of its student housing, however, is harder to patrol and a more lucrative target for robbers. It is poorly lit, has lots of dark parks and alleys, and has lots of extremely oblivious UChis walking around drunk and on their phones.
    You are not safe when you walk back from Kimbark Liquor to get to your awesome apartment party. You are not safe walking back from the #6 to your apartment. Summer is coming, robbers are out, and Hyde Park is a traditional hunting ground for them.
Advice time. How do you prevent these robberies? I am going to do a larger series of posts on summer safety tomorrow and  over the next days and weeks, but here are the tips that can keep you, your property, and your loved ones safe in the pending months.
    Can't emphasize this enough. If you see a group, big or small, of young men looking rowdy, get off of that side of the street. Turn around and flee if you have to. I know a thing or two about large groups of South Side boys, and that crew downtown probably looked like it was hunting for trouble. Who cares if you feel uncomfortable making a snap second profiling judgment? No one wants to generalize or stigmatize. But no one wants to get their jaw broken by a 10 man brawling pack. Use the evidence you have to make an informed decision about what will keep you safe.
  2. HIDE YOUR PHONE!Summer is here. Robbers are out. There is no longer any good reason, short of calling the police, that you should be walking around potentially dangerous areas with your phone out. You are actually just inviting attackers to come out and take your device. Heck, some people who are not even thinking of committing a robbery might just see the oblivious UChi standing there with a phone and realize they can make an easy hundred bucks. Keep it in your pocket. Don't text. If you must text, go inside a cafe or store. You are not cool or well-informed when you browse the web on your phone during this season. You are just a target. 
    In some attacks, the assailant makes a demand. You comply, they go away, no one gets hurt, and you just focus on getting a good witness description. But in those downtown incidents with multiple attackers, there is no demand. There is just a brawl. If you find yourself in that situation, you will have a fight on your hands. Rather, you will have a punch and get-the-hell-out-of-there situation where you must rapidly stun and disengage. Even so, you will need to defend yourself.
    All warriors should have selected their clothing kit; I wrote about this once before. It should be functional. It might make a statement about you. But it will never encumber you in a bad situation. If you know what your attire is, wear it all summer. If you don't, figure it out now and wear it all summer. Those hunting packs were not interested in just taking a wallet. They wanted to cause damage to a person. Your clothing must reflect your state of readiness.
    Wear shoes that you can run in.
    Wear pants or shorts that allow full leg mobility for sprinting and kicking.
    Bring a bag that keeps both hands free at all times.
    Don't wear anything too long or baggy that can get caught or grabbed during an attack. 
  4. FIGHT ONLY TO DISENGAGEYou don't need to arrest your attacker. The police can handle that. In fact, it's their job. YOUR job is to survive with a good description of your attackers so you can inform the cops when they arrive on scene. If a robber just makes a demand with a gun under his coat, just note his clothing, his face, any distinguishing marks, and then give up your loot. But if the attackers just want to hurt you, you need to survive.
    ALWAYS fight to disengage. Cause damage to stun and disorient, and then run. Choose your attacks wisely. Do not get in a grappling match. Whatever you do, stay on your feet. Punch an attacker in the neck. Give them a palm strike to the nose. Kick them in the groin or hard in the thigh. And then run. End all of your fights by running, and choose techniques that allow you to run. 
That is all for now friends. Stay aware. Stay safe. Know your city. Summer is coming. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

UChicago Crime Report: Local Shootings and Robberies

Not quite in the area frequented by UChicago students or residents, but I know of a few people who live this far up on the North Side. Unlike the last time, the UCPD actually filed an incident report on this one. Might have something to do with them catching the suspect, but I leave you the right to reserve judgment.

Incident Location Date/Time Occurred Comment
Aggravated Battery 50th between Cottage Grove & Drexel 6/6/12 7:02 PM Male shot in the arm by suspects who fled in a waiting vehicle / UCPD officers pursued and apprehended one suspect armed with a handgun
Robbery 60th between Stony Island & Dorchester 6/7/12 10:30 PM Two males forcibly took property from a man walking on the sidewalk / Arrest by UCPD
(Source: and

For the shooting, I would guess that this happened in Houston Park over there (Google Map link here). Probably not something that UChicago community members in that area should be too worried about, but again, no alert got sent out, and most people just don't read the incident report. Probably a personal dispute gone badly, so as usual with most gun violence, UChicago people don't really need to worry about being direct targets. Stray bullets, however, always hit something.

That robbery is a bit more worrisome. The crime probably happened under the Metra tracks on the Midway, or at least around that area. I had a coworker who got robbed there about three years ago. A lot of people think they are safe around this part of campus because a) there is a decent amount of auto traffic (although not at 10:30 PM) and b) they are about 200 feet away from the UChicago Press/Graham School of General Studies. That's a lot of false security though. Robberies happen both in the vicinity of campus buildings and even right on their doorsteps; remember the outrageous Quad robberies of last year? Always stay aware and alert, even if other signs might indicate that you are supposedly "safe".

Also, a salute to the men and women of the UCPD for fast responses and rapid arrests in these two crimes. In both cases, the Department got the perpetrators within 5-10 minutes of the actual incident. Not enough data up here to figure out why they reacted so quickly, whether because a patrol car passed by and saw the attacks, or whether they rapidly responded to blue light phone calls for help. Either way, folks on campus should be heartened by this response. At UChicago, we are often extremely unappreciative of the work that the UCPD does for us. It is so much easier to blame them for their errors and missteps, without recognizing their good work.