Lots of work (real world job stuff, not build Magic decks and train martial arts on the Midway work) going on, so haven't been able to get as many posts as I would like. The July 4 Holiday Weekend was particularly violent in Chicago, and although Hyde Park was spared much of the mayhem, many other neighborhoods across the city felt the full brunt of the 60+ shot and 11 killed. Thank the ambulances for a lower murder rate than that; EMTs and buses alone probably saved at least 10 of those individuals from ending up on the rising homicide tally for 2013.
But as is often the case even in the well-patrolled and higher-income Hyde Park, criminals continue to make appearances around the neighborhood. The following two incidents were logged in the UCPD Incident Report for Tuesday, 7/9/2013. Approximate addresses have been linked via Google Maps so you can get a sense of where these attacks occurred.
|Information||5400 S. Kimbark||7/9/13|
|Two males, one armed with a handgun, took property from a man walking on the sidewalk off campus and fled in a waiting vehicle / CPD case HW354466||C00724|
|Information||54th between Kimbark & Kenwood (Nichols Park)||7/9/13 11:17 PM||7/9/13 11:05 PM||Two unknown females forcibly took iPhone from victim walking through the park off campus / Victim not injured / CPD case||C00729|
Both incidents happened around Nichols Park within no more than a quarter mile of each other. It is pretty clear that the incidents themselves are unrelated, but their common location is telling. Nichols Park is one of the worst lit areas of Hyde Park after nightfall, and one of the lowest traffic areas during the day. The 11:00 PM robbery falls right inside the expected range of violent crime. The 9:00 AM attack, however, is definitely a statistical anomaly. The shared location is just the sort of place where you can get away with a crime during many hours of the day, regardless of the times or the statistics.
Nichols Park isn't a bad place, and that area of Hyde Park is actually somewhat safe. That should not diminish the need for a proper self-defense mindset. Although there might be legitimate reason to shortcut through the park, or any park really, you should always do so with the utmost vigilance. Scan the area (every ten-fifteen seconds, glance over your shoulder casually). Hold yourself in a confident manner. That doesn't mean you should puff out your chest in your Teddy Roosevelt impression itching for a brawl, but it does mean that you should look like a capable individual. Keep your phone in your pocket; if anything is so urgent as to require immediate response, park yourself somewhere, scan the area, and then attend to it. Make knowing eye contact with any pedestrians, enough to indicate your vigilance, but not enough to provoke a challenge or conversation. These good self-defense skills will probably feel like a silly waste of time for every minute of every day that you employ them... except that one fateful minute where you wish you had remember to use them better.
From a martial perspective, both of these incidents posed unique challenges to the victims. In the first case, a multiple armed opponent scenario, martial solutions were all but impossible. Giving up property was definitely the best call, especially if there was anyone accompanying the victim. In the second case, although a physical defense might have been appropriate, it is always difficult to defend against female offenders. This has nothing to do with the offenders themselves and everything to do with your own mindframe. When I train, my imagined attacker is about 6'1" and weighs 210 pounds. Many of my students probably, but not necessarily, picture a similar assailant. Many of them would find it difficult to fire off three knees to the ribcage of a 20-some year old woman. There's also a good deal of social conditioning in there ("boys don't hit girls"), conditioning that probably outweighs the training mindframe. And finally, there's the legal perspective. A male defender is going to need some good justifications (and/or a good attorney) to explain why he thought it was necessary to roundhouse kick his female attacker in the head to make her let go of her phone. It's an oversimplified analysis and entry point to a much larger issue of female/male relationships in self-defense situations, but it gets us thinking about the unique challenges of the situation.
Until next time, stay safe and stay aware. Hyde Park is a very safe neighborhood. Until it isn't. Make sure that you are ready to both avoid that chance and deal with it if it arises.