Apple Valley police are hoping to enlist the city's dog walkers for their latest crime prevention program, which will debut during a reduced fee vaccine clinic this month.
Pam Walter, the police department's crime prevention specialist, expects up to 100 residents to attend the Aug. 12 Watchdog Walkers kickoff event from 6 to 8 p.m. at Kelley Park. Police will instruct dog owners at the event on what to look for while out in the community and what police need to know in reports of suspicious activity.
"One of the biggest hurdles I have is getting people to understand that we do want you to call the police," Walter said. "You don't have to prove anything. Just let us know and we'll get an officer out there."
Watchdog Walkers will receive reflective tags for their dogs, Walter said. The Palomino Pet Hospital will also be at the Aug. 12 event for a reduced-fee clinic that includes $15 microchipping.
Like many departments, Apple Valley counts neighborhood watch, rental housing programs and a business watch program that has evolved into a nonprofit among its crime prevention efforts.
Walter said the idea for Watchdog Walkers came from the Chaska Police Department, whose Paw Patrol debuted in May and counts up to 100 residents and their purple bandanna-clad dogs.
"It's a simple concept and easy to get going without a whole lot of money," Chaska Police Officer Julie Janke said.
Janke said Paw Patrol has been helpful in discovering graffiti along the city's trails and other suspicious activity in progress. Walter hopes Watchdog Walkers will deter car burglaries, which are more common in summer months.
Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland is among the program's early fans.
"I've had people call me and tell me how excited they are that they can actually walk their dog with a purpose," Hamann-Roland said.
Jana Gould, a resident who has long been part of her neighborhood watch program, has already expressed an interest in joining the program along with Wally, a 10-year-old toy poodle-shih tzu mix she adopted this summer.
"He gets lots of walks," she said. "He's a cute little dog. The neighbors want to talk to him more than me."
For years, Gould said she has kept alert for unkempt lawns, piled up newspapers and any signs something may not be right at neighbors' homes. On a walk a few years ago, Gould said she spotted a car break-in in progress that she reported to police. It's that awareness and willingness to report that Apple Valley police hope will proliferate with its latest program.
"I certainly hope it helps," Gould said. "I think there are too many people that don't want to get involved or turn away and say, 'It's none of my business.' "