Dog Walkers Could Become the Next Crime Fighters in Des Moines

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Like other dog owners, walking Sunny is a daily routine for Sarah Heggen.

"I`m an avid dog walker. I walk her a lot throughout the summer and when the weather is nice," she said.

In her north of Grand neighborhood, Heggen wants a dog walk to be something much more: surveillance with the Dog Walker Watch program.  "This program encourages people to keep that eye out on their fellow neighbors as they are walking their dog," said Heggen.

Dog Walker Watch is a national program created by the National Association of Town Watch, which started National Night Out.

"It`ll be incredibly helpful and it`s that raising awareness as you are going through day-to-day activities and being vigilant is the neat piece to this," said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.

The American Pet Products Association believes there are over 70 million pet owners in America and those extra eyes can be helpful.  Heggen agrees and said, "Well it`s a natural fit. We are out walking around the neighborhood and the streets anyway so it`s really encouraging people, if they see something to say something.

Those extra eyes are why Des Moines police are positive about partnering with the neighborhood on the program.  "People who are walking their dogs are out 24/7 and it seems simple but it`s actually a really good idea," said Parizek.

Dog Walker Watch brochures and a sign-up sheet provided information Tuesday evening at the North of Grand Neighborhoods National Night Out.  "We will start putting out more meetings and meeting with the police department to start working on that partnership together," Heggen said.

Police will train those in the program on what to look for.  Parizek said, "We try to give people guidance on exactly what is suspicious and what is criminal, what`s a 911 call and what`s an email to your neighborhood officer."

Once the group is established, the Des Moines Police Department sees it as a helpful extension of community engagement.  "That`s the type of engagement we are looking for. When we can see folks coming up with their own ideas and looking to us for support, we are all in for that," said Parizek.

It's making crime fighting look like a walk in the park.  "It doesn`t matter where you live.  You always have to be aware of what`s going on," said Heggen.

More information can be found on the North of Grand DSM Facebook page. You can also learn more about starting your own Dog Walker Watch Program here: https://natw.org/dog-walker-watch/

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