'Paw Patrol' for real? New Draper program combines dog-walking with neighborhood watchJul 15, 2021 10:52AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton
New volunteer program aims to promote community awareness and encourage dog walkers and walkers to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]
Draper’s Police Department is kicking off a brand new volunteer program for people who frequently walk with their four-legged family members. It’s called Draper Dog Walker Watch (DDWW). The program launched in late June, but anyone can join at any time. Walkers are also welcome to participate without a furry friend.
Sue Campbell is in charge of crime prevention and coordinator of programs such as Neighborhood Watch for the police department. Her goal is to make Draper one of the safest cities in Utah. The dog walker watch program is an idea that came from the National Association of Town Watch, the people behind National Night Out.
“It’s a community awareness program that anybody can be a part of. Folks will be taught how to observe suspicious activity and taught to understand what suspicious activity is, because a person by themselves is not suspicious, but a behavior can be,” Campbell said.
The idea behind DDWW is that people who walk frequently tend to know what is “normal” in their neighborhood or on their regular walking route versus something that seems out of place. They’re taught that seeing things such as a person walking through a parking lot, looking into car windows and trying car doors, is concerning, as would be a person walking with a large duffle bag through a neighborhood late at night or early in the morning, or a “salesperson” that lingers at someone’s door, knocking many times to determine if anyone is home.
There’s no cost to participate and it involves less training than Neighborhood Watch, so it’s an easy way to get involved. Participants are taught how to communicate with emergency dispatchers while remaining calm, how to describe a suspicious person, and how to identify helpful landmarks for responding officers and appropriately answer dispatcher questions.
“One of the things about having people call in emergencies is getting them over that fear that they’re bothering the police. More than 90% of arrests for in-progress crime are made because a citizen has called in. Fewer happen because an officer might be driving down the road and see a crime in progress or the arrest is the result of follow up on a case. Citizens are the eyes and ears of the police department because no police department can be everywhere all the time, so we rely on citizens to inform us of suspicious behaviors and suspicious activities,” Campbell said.
Interested participants can go to www.draperutah.gov/DDWW or call 801-576-6342 for details. Volunteers simply watch a PowerPoint presentation and fill out a form upon completion. They receive a digital certificate and are invited to pick up a blue bandana for their canine companion at the police department. Bandanas are reserved for dogs only.
The program is currently offered online only with future plans to host in-person classes at parks throughout the city.
National statistics show that 95% of police arrests are the direct result of a resident’s phone call, and that the more than 75 million dog owners across the nation offer that many million more eyes and ears to assist local law enforcement.
“People who are dog walkers or habitual walkers know their neighborhood well, so much better than an officer would who is assigned to patrol that area. Neighbors know who lives there, what cars are normally there, or who might be on vacation. So that’s the moral of the story. Dog walkers and habitual walkers know their area better and they can discern something suspicious faster than we can. We just want people to be out and aware and looking. We all have kind of have a civic duty…it takes a village. The police can’t do it by themselves, we have to have help from the community,” Campbell said.