Be smart to stay safe

New UIC Police logo♪♫♪ I was afraid to be myself, I was afraid that you could tell…

One of the most disconcerting things for me is when I open up my email in the morning and find the first thing I see to be big bold letters: [URGENT] CRIME ALERT.

Yikes. Like others, one of the first things that cross my mind is: What is it this time?

I always look at the location of the crime first. It gives me a false sense of security if I see it happened somewhere relatively far from where I live, like west campus; but of course, there is not shortage of alerts that take place on south or east campus. Some even happen right in front of the dorms. Rationally, of course, I know that the location for the latest crime alert doesn’t matter. It could happen anywhere, to anyone, at almost any time. That’s just one of the harsh realities of living, especially in a big city like Chicago — crime happens.

This thought brings me back to my UIC orientation, almost four years ago. One fellow freshman-to-be raised their hand during the safety presentation and asked our orientation leader, “Is the campus safe?” Our student leader half chuckled, betraying a little discomfort, and after a pause, replied, “It is if you’re smart about it. Try not to turn into a crime alert, guys.”

Four years later, I’m relieved that I have been smart about it, taking measures to minimize my chances of becoming one of those dreaded emails sent to everyone’s inbox. Obviously, just “being smart” is never a guarantee for 100 percent safety, but it is certainly a start to abandon the sheltered “it-could-never-happen-to-me” attitude and take active steps to prevent crimes. Yes, crime happens, but you can learn how to prevent it or protect yourself should crisis occur. Here are some tips (many of which are common sense) that I’ve picked up:

  1. Use the buddy system. Going out, especially at nighttime, is always safer in numbers.
  2. Put the headphones away! Especially at nighttime. If you really can’t stand to be alone with your thoughts, wear one earbud only and keep the volume down. You want to be as aware of your surroundings as possible, not shut off into a little world. Someone may see your phone sticking out your pocket and notice your distraction and decide that you’re an easy target!
  3. Take a self-defense class. This might not be viable to everyone depending on costs and time, but investing in one of these may save your life one day. I was lucky to have had self-defense built into my P.E. curriculum in high school, but since then I have also attended a couple self-defense basic workshops where they show you the rudimentary moves to get away from an attacker coming at you from behind or in front. And…you can just remember Sandra Bullock from Miss Congeniality. I.N.G. Solar plexus. Instep. Nose. Groin. Hit hard and don’t hold back when it comes to protecting yourself.
  4. This is just general safety rather than preventing crime; but if you like jogging or biking at night, wear reflective or bright clothing so that you’re easily visible. It’s easy for to blend into the dark and get into an accident.
  5. If you have a phone that has a “medical ID” function (iPhones definitely have this), turn it on, fill it out, and make sure it’s available. In the case that you are in trouble and cannot communicate, bystanders can find vital information about you.
  6. Be sure to switch up your routes and times of travel. It may sound like paranoia talking, but you never know who may be watching you.
  7. With that, try to stick to routes where there are people or activities going on around you. Again, safety in numbers, and offenders are less likely to try something if they think they might get caught.
  8. Finally, trust your instincts. If something feels weird or off and your senses are telling you to get out, do it. Forget your normal route or plans and take off for a safer place. Your safety should always come first.

Life would be really boring if we all hid away out of fear—so when you go out, taking very basic steps to watch for your own safety is important. Be smart and be safe everyone!

Take a look at me, I’m not afraid anymore ♪♫♪

(Afroki – Steve Aoki & Afrojack feat. Bonnie McKee)


Sarah Lee (F)Sarah Lee is a senior studying neuroscience and Russian in the GPPA Medicine program at UIC. She’s still trying to figure out exactly what she wants to do, but some of  life goals include running a marathon, exploring Eastern Europe and becoming fluent in Russian. In her free time, she loves running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. A Naperville native, Sarah is a peer mentor in the Courtyard residence hall.

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