Even in Broad Daylight, Please Be Careful
They call them "crimes of opportunity" for a reason. Don't set yourself up to be a victim.
Item: Probably 25 years ago, maybe a bit less, a woman was attacked on the bike trail in Island Park, at around 12:30 or so in the afternoon. In spring. In broad daylight. She got away.
Item: A few years ago several middle school boys were attacked on the bike trail—the former Commonwealth Edison right-of-way—that runs between East Side Drive and Kirk Road. It wasn't broad daylight, it was after dinner. But it was still light out.
Item: A San Diego girl, formerly of Illinois, was murdered after going running in a park, by herself. Yes, it was broad daylight.
Item: A freshman at NIU is believed to have been murdered after heading to a park—yes, in broad daylight!—by herself.
Inescapable conclusion: Perhaps isolated areas are not the best place to be, whether in DeKalb, San Diego or even our own Geneva.
Parents are on edge after the Toni Keller murder in DeKalb. Police have called it a "crime of opportunity" though that detail certainly could change as the legal case continues.
What won't change is the devastating heartbreak her family will endure forever.
And I want to scream at young girls, particularly, "Don't you GET IT? Use your heads! Bad things happen! And yes, they can happen to you!"
It's what I wanted to scream when I found out my daughter would take walks on her campus—Illinois State University—in the dark. Oh, she'd say, I stay in safe areas. No doubt she did; she's not stupid. But ... bad things happen. See above.
Geneva is a wonderful town in which to live and its crime rate is relatively low. But crime isn't zero. What give someone else the opportunity to turn you into a victim?
My own basic rule is pretty simple: no isolated areas on your own, unless it's at such time of day you're reasonably sure you won't be, well, isolated. Thus, it's probably OK to walk or run through Island Park on a Sunday morning, but not necessarily such a great idea to head south on the bike trail from Island Park to Fabyan Forest Preserve in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.
I think it's a shame that in this world females, particularly, need to guard themselves so carefully against attack and assault. I think it's foolhardy to dismiss such concerns as over the top.
After Chelsea King's body was found in San Diego, I e-mailed a San Diego friend of mine. Why oh why, I railed to him in my e-mail, do girls not get that they can't go for runs by themselves in out-of-the-way areas?
He answered that her cross country team ran there often, that the park is beautiful and it was probably second-nature for her to go there. And he added, "I also rail against a society where a woman can't go for a run by herself."
I understand his revulsion. You can rail at the world all you want. It just won't change the facts. And he has sons, not daughters.
Earlier this week I revisited with my daughter her late-night campus walks to clear her head, get away for a while, have a chance to think. She had indeed stayed in the fairly well-populated Quad, she stayed alert to her surroundings and, when she felt uneasy, she'd pick up a rock, so she'd have some method of defense. Smart girl!
And the Keller murder at Northern has made her reassess. When still at school, she used to, as Chelsea King did, jog a trail that sometimes was pretty empty of other people. Would she do that now, I asked? No.
A St. Charles friend of mine, Sandie Benhart, said she's covered—again—the safety basics with her kids. "At the same time, it's hard to figure the line between being cautious and freaking out so you forget to have fun!" she said.
Indeed it is. And that makes for a sadder world. Like so much in life, you have to assess and weigh the odds, weigh the situation.
And then, as my friend Sandie says, go live. Go have fun.
But be careful!