Corona’s new program taps dog walkers to watch out for crime

In an effort to curb neighborhood crime, Corona police have recruited an unexpected ally to help patrol their streets: dog walkers.

The new community awareness program, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, instructs pedestrians on what to do if there’s an emergency and how to spot suspicious activity.

Kameron Dennis, a crime prevention assistant at the Corona Police Department, said the Dog Walker Watch initiative is similar to neighborhood watch programs with which people are familiar, but requires as little commitment as a morning walk with Fido.

These furry friends and their owners aren’t going to become amateur K-9 units. But the department could use volunteers, Dennis said at a Wednesday morning, July 31, training in Santana Park. And the program is a way to get citizens involved in reducing crime.

“You guys are out more than we are,” he told a small group of people and their dogs.

At the training, Dennis and colleague Rosalyna Aguilar advised participants on what does — and does not — qualify as necessary for police response.

For example, Aguilar said, though a person’s behavior could be seen as suspicious, an individual’s presence or appearance shouldn’t be grounds for a phone call to the cops. In the event of a crime, however, people can “call any time a police response may be needed.”

The Corona non-emergency number is printed on blue dog bandannas given to participants.

The two hosts also shared tips on how to stay safe before and during walks.

When leaving the house, Aguilar advised leaving a light on or waving goodbye even when no one’s home. And during the walks, she suggested bringing a cell phone. These small steps discourage potential thieves from entering a house and gives walkers a fast, easy way to report crimes they may see.

She also warned against distracted dog walking that can occur when people use their phones, listen to music or read books.

“Keep your head up,” she said. “Scan. Stay vigilant and pay attention.”

For Corona resident and mechanic Ted Simpson, who walks nearly every day with his 7-month old dog Liberty, the training was important because he hopes it will make his neighborhood safer.

“Any kind of community watch program is necessary,” he said.

Riverside sisters Regina, 9, and Melissa Estrada, 30, who attended the morning training with their dog Chico, agreed.

And though they live a city over, the lessons they learned from Aguilar and Dennis will probably be useful — particularly what constitutes a non-emergency, they said.

“It’s important to watch out for your surroundings,” said Melissa Estrada, who works for the city.

Attendees also received a Dog Walker Watch membership card, which will earn them goodies at several dog-themed businesses in Corona. At the National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 6, they can pick up a drawstring bag filled with dog toys.

Police hope that, soon, there will be additional eyes and ears patrolling the streets of Corona — along with some more wagging tails.

Image caption

Shera waits for a treat from owner, Corona resident Swarti Kulkarni, during their Friday morning, Aug. 2, walk. Kulkarni and her dog have enrolled in the Corona Police Department’s new Dog Walker Watch program. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)