CHICAGO — An increase in robberies across the city over the past two years may have some wondering what they can do to avoid falling victim. While people involved in some of the incidents have gone uninjured, others have found themselves victims of violent attacks.

While avoiding a robbery may not always be possible, Chicago crime experts say some steps can be taken to avoid serious injury and minimize the impact of a crime.

George McDade, the chairman at Cook County Crime Stoppers and retired Chief of Detectives for the Chicago Police Department Eugene Roy, shared tips about how to avoid a robbery or and any injuries or ongoing issues that may come as a result. 

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According to recent statistics from CPD, robberies have increased across the city by 25% since last year and 45% since 2021.

Chicago police Area Three Commander Rodney Hill spoke with Lincoln Park residents in late September after a man was badly beaten and robbed in Bucktown. During that meeting, Hill said over 300 robberies have been committed in the past year and officers have only had a clearance rate of 10%, meaning 90% of those crimes went unresolved. 

Roy and McDade said there are steps that can be taken to minimize harm and avoid falling victim.

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Avoiding a robbery

In some cases, robberies around the city have involved juveniles and Roy said those incidents can be unpredictable.

“What we’re seeing is larger numbers of juveniles being involved in armed robberies which are only one bad decision away from becoming a shooting or worse,” Roy said. 

According to Roy, one of the best steps that can be taken to mitigate exposure to a robbery is to maintain an awareness of one’s surroundings. 

“The easiest thing to do, the smartest thing to do, is number one, know where you are at, know where you are going,” Roy said. 

It is important to trust one’s instincts and avoid situations that may make someone feel uncomfortable, Roy said.

“The bottom line is, do you feel comfortable walking around?” Roy said. “Whether you’re on campus at DePaul, on the L or even just walking in your own neighborhood.”

In some cases, offenders may be carrying weapons and it can be hard to predict the actions of a potential thief. Roy said distracting unarmed criminals could offer victims a potential getaway, but each case is unique, and running could make the situation worse. 

“Maybe just have a few loose dollars in your pocket to throw out and distract somebody and just start running. If they’re armed with a gun, it’s probably not a good idea, but if they’re just demanding money, maybe it’s a different story,” Roy said.

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Minimizing harm

Steps can be taken to avoid ongoing issues for someone who may fall victim to a robbery, and Roy said it starts with what is in your wallet or purse.

Ongoing problems can result from a thief taking an overstuffed wallet or purse, leaving the victim to chase down what was lost and force them to cancel cards that could be impacted.

“Don’t carry all your credit and debit cards, you only need one,” Roy said. “Do you even really need your debit or credit card if you’re using electronic payment on your phone?”

But stolen credit and debit cards aren’t the only things that could continue to burden a victim after a crime. According to Roy, caution should be taken with the amount of personal information that is carried.

“Be careful with the amount of information you carry. You don’t want to have an identification card or something that’s got your name, your address, your date of birth, your Social Security card on it, where somebody can now take that and clone it and obtain fraudulent credit cards under your name.”

A wallet is not the only thing that thieves may be looking to steal. McDade said a computer or cellphone could be a trove of valuable information for thieves and steps can be taken to protect that information, in the event they are stolen. 

“Make sure your cellphone and computers have security restrictions. Facial, PIN numbers. Set them for the shortest time of inactivity that requires a password to open,” McDade said. “Many of us have a wealth of information in these devices. We need to protect it. If the offender has your cellphone or laptop, they will try to open it. After failures, they will shut it off so it can’t be tracked.”

While many cell phones and laptops can be tracked, McDade advises against tracking them down, as thieves can be unpredictable, and it could put a victim in further danger. 

“If you are able to track your devices or car, do not go looking for them. Notify police,” McDade said. “Remember, these offenders could be armed.” 

What to do after falling victim

After falling victim to a crime, experts say the first step is to call the police. According to McDade, victims should try to remain calm and do their best to remember any characteristics of the offenders.

“Try to remember what offenders looked like. Best way to guess height and weight, think of a family member or friend who is similar.” McDade said. “Remember a feature that was eye-catching, shoes, lettering, colors.”

After notifying police, McDade advises victims to file a police report and notify their insurance company.

“Be involved, give information that will help police catch offenders. Go to court when they are arrested. Help by giving tips anonymously to Crime stoppers 800-535-STOP,” McDade said.