Depending on whom you ask, Hyde Park is either so safe that anyone who says otherwise is racist, or so unsafe that you ought to be hiding in a bunker. Luckily, your trusty and totally unbiased friends at the Thinker have spent untold hours burrowing through UCPD’s daily incident reports to bring you the straight dope on all things criminal and Hyde Park. Here are the types to watch out for:
The 11 p.m. Robber: Looking for backpacks and phones, the 11 p.m. robber lurks along Hyde Park’s side streets between the hours of 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. He usually threatens suspects with a gun before spiriting their belongings off to a nearby getaway car. (If you can afford a car and a gun, why are you robbing people? Have you considered driving for Uber?) Avoid him by walking home at night along only well-lit main roads, or by using one of your seven free monthly Lyft passes to get a ride home.
The Half-Bike Thief: This thief steals bikes, but mysteriously fails to ever procure a set of bolt cutters (available for <$15 on Amazon!). As a result, he only steals the back half of the bike and leaves the front wheel locked to the rack. The Chicago city government has also mysteriously failed to procure a set of bolt cutters, so the wheel usually stays put for a while. This thief is usually armed with a knife, which might get “displayed” in case he is confronted by passersby (who get “menaced”) or by the bike’s owner.
The Window Shopper: The window shopper smashes car windows to get what he wants, perhaps a phone or a purse. He also steals the occasional catalytic converter: incident reports with taglines like “catalytic converter taken from a 2015 Toyota parked on the street” make one wonder what took them so long (and what said Toyota owner was thinking).
Some Hyde Park streets such as the parking-heavy streets surrounding Harold Washington Park acquire a glistening layer of cracked glass in the summer from all of the window shopping, suggesting that Chicago’s street sweeping program may not entirely be a hustle for fine money. Avoid window shoppers by not leaving stuff in your car and getting your catalytic converter secured if necessary.
The Longfellow: This criminal lives by the words of the famous Longfellow poem: “I shot a [paintball or bullet or BB or rock] into the air / it fell to earth I knew not where.” By the time the damage is detected, the Longfellow is long gone, leaving someone else to deal with his bullet hole or rock hole. (An important exception is the paintballer Longfellows, who have a knack for hitting people with their projectiles, leading to university emails with titles like “Community Concern Regarding Recent Paintball Incidents,” i.e., random people keep getting shot with paintballs and it is a problem). We are not entirely sure what the Longfellow’s motives are.
The Smartphone Snatcher: The snatcher grabs smartphones from unsuspecting students, usually during school hours and sometimes at bus stops. Avoid him by maintaining some situational awareness while using your phone in public.
The Shoplifter: This individual steals goods from Hyde Park stores. Students are not usually affected except for when they need to buy laundry detergent—only to find it locked down with other valuable commodities like deodorant in a hard plastic case. Also, shoplifters provide students with free entertainment, giving them a chance to observe our unarmed and apathetic security guards in action. (Pro tip: stomping repeatedly on a hard plastic box containing an item that you would like to steal may or may not work for getting it out!)
The Palestine: These goofballs need no introduction. Assembling in hordes, they disrupt admissions tours and campus cafés, with the ostensible aim of influencing a conflict halfway around the world that they know nothing about (where is the river and the sea again?). Between UChicago’s softhearted administrators and even more softhearted district attorneys, none of the Palestines ever see the light of day behind bars however many times they get arrested and issued court appearance dates.
There you have it! Next time your Fox News-watching grandma asks why you have not been shot yet, you can tell her that there are so many other options.
* The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.