How not to be a theft victim on the CTA

With Sunday’s Tribune report on a 42% increase in thefts on the CTA from 2009 to 2011, it’s the perfect time to remind readers how not to be a victim of crime.

I’ve written a number of times that we riders too often put ourselves in danger by not paying attention. I’m really trying not to “blame the victim” here, but there are a number of things we can do to prevent crime and not be a victim ourselves.

  1. Know your surroundings at all times. Look around you. See who is there.
  2. Don’t stand in the doorway or sit near the door with your iPhone or iPod handy for a snatcher to grab and run off at the next stop.
  3. Don’t keep your face glued to your smartphone screen. (See the illustration here.) That’s the corollary to rules No. 1 and 2.
  4. Watch who is coming between train cars on the end doors. Often, only trouble comes through there.
  5. Don’t fall asleep on the train, especially late at night.
  6. If traveling at night – when most crime happens – board the first car where the presence of the motorman at least is a deterrent to crime.
  7. If you are robbed by force or threat – obey! Give him your valuables without a fight while mentally trying to get a description of the assailant.
  8. Work with the police. Give a description of the offender. With the proliferation of cameras on platforms and at stations, chances are authorities can pull the film and match your description to the perpetrator.

We can’t stop all crime, but we can do common sense things to keep ourselves from being a victim.


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  • There were a lot of foamers with essentially the complaint "if they cut back owl service, how am I going to get from the bar at 2 a.m.?"

    From the Tribune article, apparently that's when the muggers find it most opportune to operate, except for the afternoon rush hours.

    So, while I don't advocate drinking and driving, one thing you can do to prevent being a victim is not being on the CTA under those types of discretionary circumstances.

    Also, since cell phones now all have gps, and can be traced, I don't see how they are such a profitable thing to steal. Maybe the fences are dumb, or someone just wants to look up one porn site.

  • Thanks, Kevin, Bubbelah. This is sound advice.

  • "If you are robbed by force or threat - obey!"

    This is the single worst advice ever perpetuated by self-proclaimed "experts" on criminal behavior, all of whom have never been been attacked by a predator.

    How about instead, if you are being threatened or force is being employed against you - use your best judgement. Trust your instincts.

    It's easy for Mr. O'Neil and others like him to tell us from his armchair that the attackers are just poor, misunderstood youths who want nothing more than to acquire an iPhone so they can read wikipedia and watch Khan Academy videos to learn calculus.

    But the truth on the ground is that many of the attacks on CTA (and elsewhere) are not robberies, and the attackers are interested in nothing other than inflicting harm.

    So if an animal attacks or threatens to attack you - use your best judgement. You DO NOT KNOW ahead of time that they're only interested in your belongings. DO NOT make an idiotic assumption that compliance is the safest route.

    If you think gouging out an attacker's eyeballs with your key is the best course of action to preserve your life and liberty, do it.

  • In reply to sporks:

    "the attackers are just poor, misunderstood youths who want nothing more than to acquire an iPhone so they can read wikipedia and watch Khan Academy videos to learn calculus."

    I am not seeing this anywhere in what Kevin wrote. Could you tell me where this is, besides in your head?

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Well, since I pointed out that smartphones can be tracked, why don't you tell us why they assault people and steal them, Cheryl?

  • If you have ignored all of the advice about avoiding the situations that can lead to trouble, which is really a shame by the way, then ...

    I'm with sporks - if you feel threatened, reach down in your gut and speak up - pre-empt the person/people by saying something such as "back off", "not interested", or "leave me alone" but say it forcefully and clearly. If you act loud and crazy enough, someone will think twice about screwing with you. You may get a look or two or a comment from the moron you intend to fend off but so what, anyone who commits unwarranted violence has it (and more) coming to them.

    Consider taking a self-defense course from a qualified organization. We can't rely on the Police or Guardian Angels to to be there all the time and until people stop becoming the lambs to the slaughter, nothing will really change.

    If you also see a lamb in their electronic fog about to become a victim, step in and say something ... it doesn't take much for these cowards to back off and move on to someone who is easier. Again, if you are wrong, the worst that could happen is a few words.

    The fact is we know when the hairs go up on the back of your neck when a situation is brewing; use that to your advantage - but stay alert and regard violence as your last step - a step to be used if nothing else is possible to resolve the situation.

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    I probably should have been more clear in "if you are robbed by force or threat - obey!"

    In my mind I was really thinking of force, as in, a gun is held to your head or gut.

    Now for threats, I can see evaluating the situation and possibly saying "leave me alone," or gouging some eyes out. But do be careful of initiating action such as key gouging based on a threat alone.

  • If confronted w/ a gun at a distance, comply - throw your money or phone in one direction and run to an exit in the other. If close quarters or with a knife (a close quarters weapon and not a real threat at a distance) and there is a the sense that the moron will use the gun or knife no matter what, put up a fight if you have the physical means to do so.

    Maybe CTA should consider putting the new camera equipped cars on the line that gets the most crime unless that is the pink line. Or if someone is convicted of turnstile jumping, they have to wear a monitor that alerts police and the public if they are within 100 feet of an El station for a year after if on probation. Too bad if it's discriminatory, my safety is more important than a criminals civil rights right? Clearly the Police know who the trouble makers are and what the patterns are, seems like there is some more data to mine.

  • "Maybe CTA should consider putting the new camera equipped cars on the line that gets the most crime.."

    Since the newspaper said that was the Red Line and Claypool said it will get new cars when the shutdown is done, maybe one can put 2+2 together. Apparently, not until then, though.

    Also, up until now, CTA has said that cameras do not prevent crime, but maybe allow them to identify a perp later.

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