A long day at work busing tables at a busy restaurant in the western suburbs had come and gone for Johann Flores.
The high school senior was tired; ready to take his hard earned tips back home and get some rest. On his way home, riding the CTA blue line, he realized something wasn’t right.
A man, “Latin like me,” Flores recalled, scanned his body. The man’s eyes bore into him, checking his clothes, class ring, what shoes Flores was wearing. A Chicago native, Flores knew something was suspicious. Quick on his feet, he decided to get off the train at an earlier exit, on the corner of North Western Avenue and North Milwaukee Avenue. He timed it so he dashed out as the doors were closing. The other man, however, was able to do the same.
Walking down the stairs in the train station heading toward the street, Flores now knew this was no longer a threat: He was in danger.
“I hustled down the steps and there were people in front of me. Right before I got out of the station, the guy was like, ‘Turn around.’ I turn around and he’s got a gun out.”
“Give me all of your money, give me your ring and whatever you got on you,” Flores recalled the man saying.
Flores was now a statistic.
That incident happened several years ago, but traveling on Chicago’s public transit at night can still be dangerous.
According to stats from the CTA, crime rose 5.8 percent in the first three months of 2010 over 2009. In both years, an assault was more likely to happen on a CTA bus. Theft was high and rose 36 percent from 2009 to 2010. Pick-pocketing similarly rose in 2010 and was prevalent on both the bus and train.
An attack or robbery often happens when the victim least expects it. Many, like Flores, believe people should always be alert and cognizant of their surroundings when riding the train, bus or even a cab. Security experts agree.
“First off, trust your gut feeling,” said Ronald Rufo, who conducts crime prevention seminars for the Chicago Police Department. “Everybody has preceptors. Everybody has an idea that something is wrong.”
Flores made it out of this situation unharmed – the guy got his wallet and ran off. But Flores will carry the memory of that moment with him each time he rides transportation at night.
Even though Flores fell victim, he advises people to stay vigilant, always checking their surroundings.
“If I didn’t do that, I think that he [the robber] would have caught me more off guard; it would have probably been in a less visible place and he would have probably done something to actually harm me.”