I got robbed on the Red Line today.
As a local news editor, I've seen countless reports of this happening. Reading the police blotter every day, I've picked up on recent crime trends and have always taken extra steps to avoid being a victim. I never leave my purse hanging on a chair, for example, and I try to walk with friends in groups and stay in well-lit areas.
I also recently graduated from the Citizen Police Academy. The CPA is a free program offered through the Evanston Police Department that gives citizens an overview of all areas of the police department. We were taught specifically to identify robbers and other suspects to police officers. I even got a worksheet that outlines all the ways to describe a suspect to a 911 operator.
I thought I was prepared. I thought of myself as the wrong person to mess with; I knew all the tricks.
Then, as I sat on a fairly crowded train reading the New York Times app on my iPhone, I got robbed. And it happened so fast I didn't get a very good look at the man who did it.
While there is no way to completely prevent something like this from happening, there are a few things I learned today and I hope other people can learn from my mistakes.
Here's what I wish I had done differently, and what I hope you will do:
-Download a phone-tracking application. The Chicago Police who responded (this happened in Chicago) told me they would have had a much easier time getting my phone back if I had a GPS tracking app. They recommended a free app called "Find My iPhone." That app also allows you to delete all of your files, apps, and other information on your phone from any computer.
-Back up your phone constantly.
-If anything does happen to you, remember to get a good description of the suspect. Hair cut and color, skin color, height, weight, what the person is wearing, and any visible tattoos or other markings can help the police immensely.
-Don't keep yourself logged into applications like Twitter and Facebook on your phone. Yes it's annoying to have to log in every time, but it's much worse to have that icky feeling that your robber has access to your full name, friends list, and so on.
And, most importantly:
-Don't use your iPhone on the train. I always thought that if I just kept a tight grip or held it safely in my lap I'd be somehow immune to robbers, but I did both of those things earlier today. It seems silly, but after this happened numerous people told me that as a rule, they never use their phones when they're on the train. Next time I take the CTA, I'm bringing a book.