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Chicago people look here please!

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
So i'm going to be going to school in downtown chicago in the fall at columbia. I have been to chicago several times before, but I know pretty much nothing about the city.

The parts I have been to seemed safe to me, but I was wondering if mugging is a big thing there, and if so which parts should I keep away from?


I ask because I will be carrying a lot of expensive things with me (notebook, DAP, amp, headphones, ext. and sometimes my camera)

I would be taking the train there whenever I have class and would walk to campus from there.

sorry for being paranoid but better safe than sorry
post #2 of 11
I have lived in the Chicago burbs most of my life, and my impression is that most of the downtown area is now much safer than it was when I was your age (nearly 30 years ago.) Much larger police presence at night, especially.

Someone who lives in the city is your best bet--there can be substantial differences in neighborhoods separated by only a few blocks. And as you know, the city is very large, so defining particular areas as "bad" for a newcomer isn't very simple.

Have you expressed your concerns with someone at Columbia? How much guidance do they give incoming students from elsewhere on housing and safety?
post #3 of 11
Well, I'm glad you haven't chosen to assume in this case. There's nothing wrong with asking and you don't sound paranoid.


Chicago is much like a any other urban area. I would never carry my gear around in a conspicuous manner. I don't want to sound mean at all about such a thing but most victims of crimes like theft fail to prevent such crimes. It is your responsibility to take precautions and keep yourself and your property safe. Doing so may not always prevent crime but they can and do greatly reduce it. With that said....

Downtown is pretty safe. There are literally thousands of police patrolling the area at all times. There are not only seven police stations in the area, there are over 1600 daily combined foot, car, bike and arial patrols in the three downtown zip codes. Columbia, Roosevelt , Depaul and The School of the Art Institute share a campus Police force of 300 officers. These are real Chicago cops and most are from the violent crimes divisions. From what I understand, this is one of the largest campus police forces in the country. There are also many plainclothes officers patrolling the area on foot and they don't screw around. There are a bunch of nightclubs and bars right on Wabash ( including Buddy Guy's Legends) and there is a large police contingent looking out for under-age drinking and DUI due to all the schools in the area. You'll also find that the are is damn near spotless at all times. 24 hour cleaning crews and all city employees bear the responsibility to notify the police of crime.


While downtown is safe, your train ride may not be. There have been some very high profile crimes against CTA riders. Let me know what area you'll be living in and I'll post a link to crime stats and actual blotters.
post #4 of 11
I've been riding trains and buses to and in the loop for 23 years, and have only seen one incident of the type you're worried about: a kid got on the train with a new radio in a box, sat in a seat right next to the door and took out the radio to look at it. At the next stop a guy leaving the train grabbed the radio on his way out, and was gone. I think it was more of a statement than a theft, really.

I've carried tons of stuff, including camera equipment, and never had a problem, but I've never done anything obviously inviting trouble, like the above incident.

As sejarzo says, outside of the downtown, it often varies block to block on how safe you are. Use your head, keep your eyes open and your spider-sense turned on, and you'll be OK. (Don't be afraid of insulting people by crossing the street when you see something you don't want to walk through, for instance, and in my good neighborhood I'd never think of letting anyone walk behind me down a quiet street at night--I'll change my path, instead.)
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses. Pretty much what I expected to hear.

And sorry for the confusion but I will not be living down there until next year. The first year I will be commuting (I live in DuPage), and would take the metra there. No CTA.
post #6 of 11
Metra is totally safe. I grew up in Dupage and my dad has been taking the metra to downtown for over 20 years. Most of the people on the train are white collar workers. I'd feel safe on it even on off hours.
post #7 of 11
Generally safe, but of course you want to use street smarts, like dont go around with shirts that say my headphones cost more than your ipod and such

But seriously, there are parts of chicago where I would not want to be alone at night.
post #8 of 11
Howdy! I lived next to Columbia last year. It's a decent area. Just be smart. During the day, you're perfectly safe. At night, try not to walk alone. You should be fine.

Are you going to take the bus from the station, or will you walk every morning?
post #9 of 11
I live in DuPage and travel downtown often. The Metra trains are very safe. If you walk to Columbia, a good walk, you're fine during the day, and likely even at night. It makes sense to be cautious when you're carrying expensive gear, but the loop area is pretty much like the suburbs. I've worked in camera crews for much of my adult life and we work downtown all the time.

You'll enjoy the commute better if you can find a traveling companion, but that's not always possible. Let common sense be your guide, but do not be afraid. I think you'll like downtown. Chicago is a great walking city.

I attended Columbia when it was located at Ohio and Lakeshore Drive - a very good school.

Good luck.
post #10 of 11
Most muggings are crimes of opportunity. Like people here mentioned, you need a little street smarts. I grew up in north Chicago and went to school downtown all the time on the red line. I used to ride the red line in the early AM hours, sometimes alone, and would get off at the Howard stop in Rogers Park (terrible neighborhood). You just need to handle yourself well.

Basically don't make yourself a target. I carry expensive stuff around all the time, but I do it discreetly. I also dress pretty 'street' in the sense that while my clothes aren't necessarily cheap, I don't look like a pretty boy or have a flashy watch and $500 shoes on either.

Also don't show fear or nervousness. Someone mentioned crossing the street - that's actually one of my things not to do (depending on the situation of course, don't invite trouble). Let's say you turn a corner and 30 feet ahead is a shady looking group. Don't break stride - keep walking, make eye contact (but don't stare them down), and try not to look like a deer in headlights. If you can, make some conversation to diffuse the situation, like just say, "What's up fellas" if it feels right. Acting scared makes you easy prey.

Lastly act like you know what you're doing. Things like pulling out a map, looking around all confused, etc. all show that you don't know what you're doing. Even subtle things can show you're confused, like in NYC nobody waits at don't walk signs, they start dashing across the street the second there's a break in traffic. You don't want to be the goof standing there debating if you should go or not.

Other than that it's just luck. Worst case scenario - don't fight back, just let it go. A stick-up can be more nerve racking for them than it is for you, but 99% of the time they don't really want to hurt you, they just want to rob you. Escalating the situation leads to desperate moves by the attacker...

But seriously, downtown during the daytime is super safe. Pickpockets maybe, but that's about it.

--Illah
post #11 of 11
I second two things I've read here so far.........
1) the area around Columbia is pretty safe during the day. Be more careful at night.
2) Its all about body language. If you look and act like you belong you will be treated that way. Exhibit confidence and you will be just fine.
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