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The safe commuter makes sure that no one can snatch a bag. Vigilance is paramount, experts say.     

Don’t be an easy target: Safety tips for city dwellers

by Alexandra M. Schwappach
April 06, 2011

We’re all targets for theft. Some of us just don’t know it.

When the weather warms up, petty crime is often at its peak, safety experts say. To avoid being a victim of theft, we can take measures to protect ourselves.

Here are some tips for some typical situations: 

Walk the Walk 

How you carry yourself on the street determines whether you are an easy target.

“If you’re cowering or you seem afraid, you are an easy target,” said Avy Meyers, a Rogers Park resident who works with Chicago Alternatives Policing Strategy issues. “If you are looking straight forward and walking confidently, you are less vulnerable."

Other tips that help include remaining in well-lit areas and always being aware of your surroundings.

Stay Focused 

Thieves often keep an eye out for people who are, in the words of Meyers, electronically preoccupied with their phones or iPods or other devices. 

“You will eliminate yourself as a victim if you don’t show you have devices like that,” Meyers said. 

One ruse thieves use, Meyers said, is to ask for the time and swipe your phone when you take it out to check.

Don’t be Intimidated 

When you encounter someone who seems suspicious, don’t turn away from him or her, Sonny Hersh, another Rogers Park resident, said. Instead, keep eye contact in a non-threatening way.

“Don’t let on that you are intimidated by them,” Hersh said. 

While walking, he said, don’t be afraid to cross the street if you see something or someone threatening. And keep your eyes up and alert. 

Be Wise While Traveling 

Though there sometimes are police officers at CTA stops, it is essential to take safety precautions while on a commute. Make sure not to leave your bags sitting on an empty seat next to you, Meyers said; if you carry a purse, keep it on your shoulder or across your chest. 

Electronic video surveillance at most CTA stops, officials say, has helped to cut petty crime.

“Two years ago, nearly half of CTA stations had no camera coverage,” said Lambrini Lukidis, a CTA spokesman. “As of last spring, all CTA stations were equipped with at least one high-definition camera, and more than 60 percent had multiple cameras.”

With the help of funding from the Department of Homeland Security, the CTA also has a fiber optic cable that allows it to transmit images in real time to the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, Lukidis said. 

When in Doubt, Call 911 

Sgt. Antoinette Ursitti said that if an assailant confronts you, remain calm and be compliant.

“Remember any unique characteristics about a person: scars, limp, acne or teeth,” she said.  “And always provide that information to police.” 

If you are robbed, Hersh said to report it to police so they can detect patterns and target an area where petty crime might be especially heavy.   

“Even though the item you had stolen is unlikely to be returned, the incident goes into an archive which the police use to map crime,” he said.