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Photo by: Sarah Wilson - A program that's gaining popularity nationwide teaches dog walkers how to be sentinels for their neighborhood's safety.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Jun. 18, 2015 3 years ago

Orlando program trains dog walkers to hound criminals

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Harnessing dog walkers
by: Sarah Wilson Staff Writer

There’s a new pack of crime fighters with their noses to the ground hounding lawbreakers on College Park streets this week.

They’ve got a bone to pick with criminals, but their enforcement is all bark and no bite, says the watchdog leader.

The city of Orlando launched its first session of Dog Walker Watch Training at the College Park Community Center on Tuesday, June 16. Orlando’s Neighborhood Watch Specialist Georgeanna Butler said the program is the first of its kind in the state aimed at training people who walk their dogs regularly to keep their eyes open for suspicious behavior on their neighborhood streets and help take a bite out of crime.

“Everyday there’s hundreds of people out on our streets walking their dogs … but most people are on their phone, on the internet or texting,” Butler said. “We want to get people a little more aware and a little less hesitant to call 911 if they see something suspicious.”

The training sessions, which are being held throughout Orlando communities this year, Butler said, are modeled after a national movement of teaching walkers how to sniff out crime and collar criminals, sending them packing with their tails between their legs.

Common suspicious activities dog walkers are taught to look out for include vehicles parked in the same place for an unusual amount of time; cars driving by frequently at irregular speeds – especially with their lights off; unusual noises including breaking glass, gunshots, or continuous dog barking; and strangers looking into car or house windows.

Butler encourages anyone who sees such behaviors to keep their distance from the scene, make no contact with the culprit, and call 911 immediately.

Baldwin Park Neighborhood Watch Coordinator Denny O’Neil said that though no Dog Walker Watch Training session has been scheduled in his neighborhood yet, he supports the idea.

“It’d be a good program for us because we have a lot of people out there walking their dogs all the time,” he said. “Having more eyes out keeping an eye on what’s going on, that’d be great.”

Butler said scheduling sessions for each of Orlando’s many communities is still in the works, but both Audubon Park and Baldwin Park are on the list.

“We want to make sure that bad guys all around the city know that even dog walkers are out looking for them,” she said.

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