Laguna Beach Dog Walkers to Watch for Neighborhood Crime

Dog walkers in Laguna Beach will have another duty to perform aside from walking the canines and picking their poop. Soon they could become the neighborhood’s eyes and ears when it comes to spotting suspicious people.

The Laguna Beach Police Department decided to launch the local version of the Dog Walker Watch program after it has proven quite useful in other U.S. cities.

The program should start in the summer. This is commonly the time of the year when burglaries are the most prevalent.

The police in this city already began training dog owners in how and when to alert authorities regarding fishy behavior in their neighborhood.

The program is somewhat similar to the better known “Neighborhood Watch,” except that it uses dog walkers to spot anything out of place in the neighborhood. The idea is that they already frequent their routes and neighborhoods and would immediately know if something seemed off.

Laguna Beach Police Department’s Community Service Officer Natasha Hernandez said this program is excellent for a city where 22 percent of households have a dog. In a town with a population numbering close to 23,000 people, there are 7,549 registered canines.

In addition to its residents, Laguna Beach is also visited by around 600,000 people every year, especially in the summer. Laguna Beach is known to be an artists’ community, and hosts several large art exhibits each year. In addition, Laguna boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the state and attracts a number of tourists from other parts of the country as well. Its isolation from the hustle and bustle of Orange County, and quaint downtown area full of boutique shops and fine dining restaurants are prime reasons people are attracted to the areas. Unfortunately, not all are there to soak in the atmosphere.

Burglars to Fear the Most from Dog Walker Watch Program

Although the program, in theory, should be useful in suppressing all kinds of crimes, it is the burglars that will have the most to fear from your friendly dog walker on patrol.

The town of Laguna Beach has seen its housebreaking rate drop to less than 100 cases per year. This year there have been 46 reported break-ins, while last year saw 98, and 89 the year before that.

Laguna Beach Police Captain Jason Kravetz contributed the drop in burglary crimes to residents being better educated about ‘how not to be a victim’. Kravetz said the decrease in such crimes is also due to people looking out for each other more and reporting suspicious people.

Hernandez has so far trained about 20 dog walkers in Laguna Beach. She could recently been seen in Laguna Beach Dog Park on Laguna Canyon Road, distributing brochures to park patrons about the program. What’s more, she has already contacted local pet shops and posted fliers in the area. The next step is to inform the city’s registered dog owners about the program and its benefits.

Positive Response from Local Dog Walkers

The idea has met with universal approval from local dog walkers. One of them, Diane Farrell, from South Laguna welcomed the fact the police sees her as someone could help instead of someone who they have to chase off the beach if she doesn’t have her golden retriever Max on a leash.

Another professional dog walker, Paige Strayer has already received training by Hernandez. Strayer runs Dog-Ma Companion Care which has between 75 and 100 clients at any time.

The Dog Walker Watch program is the brainchild of Matt Peskin and it started in Pennsylvania last year. Peskin came to the idea seeing hundreds of dog walkers walking around with their canines every day of the week, day and night, with most of them focused more on their cell phones than on anything happening around them.

He said there are 75 million dog watchers in the United States, and if only a small percentage of them are trained to become more aware of their surroundings, they could be the perfect eyes and ears for the community.

There are currently 1,300 cities where the program is active.