Last week on my block, the city-dweller’s worst fear materialized; a woman was murdered, in what initially looked like a break-in. I came home from work to find a police car barricading the street and yellow tape slicing across the apartment in question and its surrounding lawn. It was a scene I’d only before seen in movies: cops swarming, and neighbors I’d never before laid eyes on lining the sidewalk, arms crossed, and wary. No one knew anything concrete except that the woman was in her 50′s, and her husband had returned home from work to find her dead. She lived six doors down from me.
As afternoon slid into evening and the neighbors slowly retreated behind the walls of their home, more and more TV crews arrived to document the scene. It was the top 10pm story and most frightening was that the way the story was worded, “family members think it was a home-invasion.” The utter randomness that this new theory presented gave me significant pause and was enough to get me to buy pepper spray, start locking the extra two locks on my front door, and to actually lock the back door of my apartment building on a regular basis, even though the gate to the backyard is already locked.
Over the weekend, news came out that it wasn’t a break-and-enter, the woman’s sister-in-law killed her over gambling money. While less scary in the end, the episode made me focus on how to live in THE MOST SECURE apartment. For starters, I’ve started locking all the windows. Even though I live on the third floor, it makes me feel safer. If you can, try not to live on the ground floor as it makes breaking in far easier. A friend of mine who lives in the garden apartment recently told me how she used to leave her windows open and her nice guitar resting within arms’ reach. It never occured to her what such a circumstance could lead to until her landlady nicely told her to either lock the window–or move the guitar. My friend commented how she was so used to living in a dorm room in college – the bubble of it – that she hadn’t even considered someone trying to break-in.
Another obvious piece of advice, be careful who you buzz up. Unless you’re expecting someone, don’t buzz anyone in just because it’s the ‘nice’ thing to do.
I wish there were better safety tips I could give, but sometimes it feels like so much of safety has to do with luck. I don’t like the uncertainty of that feeling, so let me amend the statement slightly: while luck and safety can go hand-in-hand, do everything you can to tip the odds in your favor. I mean, one of the reasons I chose my neighborhood was that I didn’t want to feel like I had to continually watch my back, jump at every little noise, and worry five times over if I locked the door after I’d left, lest I come back to find someone in my living room. I tried to tip my odds by choosing to live in one of the seemingly safest areas of Chicago. If you have a choice for a slightly nicer apartment in a worse neighborhood vs. a slightly shabbier place in a nice environment, take it from someone who hasn’t slept so well the past few nights–choose the latter.