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

The new community awareness program, sponsored by the National Association ofTown Watch, instructs pedestrians on what to do if there’s an emergency andhow 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 programswith which people are familiar, but requires as little commitment as a morningwalk 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 citizensinvolved in reducing crime.

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

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

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

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

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 goodbyeeven when no one’s home. And during the walks, she suggested bringing a cellphone. These small steps discourage potential thieves from entering a houseand gives walkers a fast, easy way to report crimes they may see.

She also warned against distracted dog walking that can occur when people usetheir 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 withhis 7-month old dog Liberty, the training was important because he hopes itwill 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 morningtraining with their dog Chico, agreed.

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

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

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

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

Image caption

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

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