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Chicago gets a really bad rap, a really bad rap. Terri and I have both lived here our whole lives, we live and work downtown, and rarely do either of us ever feel vulnerable. If you are feeling vulnerable there are a few ways to mitigate the issue, but please keep in mind at all times that people are generally good.

You may be wondering, if I feel so safe then why would I write about such a topic? Sadly, last week, news broke of a real estate agent in Arkansas who was found dead. The man accused of her abduction and murder said, “[She was targeted] Because she was just a woman that worked alone – a rich broker.”

Robbing a rich merchants house-J. M. W. Silver (Public Domain)

It is very sad that he felt that way and more so that he felt that he could take advantage of her perceived privileged life. Unfortunately, while most people are generally good there are a few jerks out there hoping to make a profit from someone else’s loss. With some preparation and street smarts you can lessen your chances of them targeting you.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Know who is around you at all times. If someone is following you (probably because they are going the same direction) keep an eye on them in the reflections of passing buildings and listen to their footsteps to be sure they aren’t speeding up or following an awkward pattern. Look (with just your eyes) underneath cars in a parking lot for shadows or people hiding out.
  • Talk to strangers on the street with caution. If they need directions they will usually say so immediately. If you aren’t clear on why they are talking at you or they ask for money it’s ok to ignore them or say a quick “no”.
  • Keep your purse closed and your belongings put away. Keep the zippers of your bags in front of you or under a flap so they can’t be accessed without your knowledge. If you are buying a backpack choose one with loud zippers, so you can hear if someone is messing with one.
  • When sitting on public transportation keep your bag in your lap with at least one arm through a strap. If you are going to look at your phone, keep it behind the bag on your lap, so the bag acts as a barrier between the phone and standing passengers.
  • When meeting a stranger, let a friend know where you will be and the timeframe of your meeting. If you are uncomfortable call your friend and keep them on the line so they can listen for trouble. You might also ask your friend to meet you at the same location a few minutes later. In that case tell the stranger that your friend is on his/her way. Also, Google and check the public records for details about the person you are meeting. The public records can show you if that person has a criminal history and social media will likely tell you if you know the same people.
  • If you feel a real sense of danger hold your keys in your fist with some of the keys sticking through, between your fingers, a la Edward Scissorhands, Freddy, or the Wolverine. If you are wearing stilettos you could seriously injure anyone who grabs you from behind by putting your ankle against his/her knee and stomping down along his/her leg, this will hurt regardless of your footwear. If someone grabs your arm from in front twist your arm away from his/her thumb, towards the other fingers, causing his/her arm to twist and release. For the record, I have never had to use any of the above three self-defense tricks. However, I feel safe knowing what they are.
  • Finally, one of the best ways to be safe is to communicate! Strike up a conversation with the person next to you on the train or at the cafe. Smile at people as you walk by and say “good day!” After all, one of the number one reasons people say they feel safe in their town is because they know everyone!


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