CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Think of it as a mobile unit that helps curb crime by doing what you already do: walk your dogs.
Cleveland Heights residents William Porter and his dog Benito have a daily routine. They walk down Cedar Lee to get some fresh air, talk to people and bond.
“Dogs love jobs and as you can see Benito's hunting right now so he loves to do something,” Porter said. “When we put on his bandana, he knows that we're going for a walk.”
This potty break serves a purpose, though, it’s for a new program for dog lovers and people who want to help curb crime.
Sgt. Mary Grace Tokmenko with the Cleveland Heights Police Department brought the program to the area.
“It's targeting a new demographic and it's emphasizing how valuable dog walkers are in the big picture of crime prevention,” Sgt. Tokmenko said.
It’s called the Dog Walker Watch Program and more than 2,000 communities around the nation have already committed.
This summer, Cleveland Heights joined the pack.
“This encourages people to be aware of your surroundings, to pay attention to the houses, the people and the cars around you and to look for things that might be out of place,” Sgt. Tokmenko said.
It’s helpful for residents like Louis Mande and his dog Duffy, who just moved to the area earlier this year.
“People just know people two houses away from them,” Mande said. “People who walk their dogs know the whole neighborhood and they have nothing to do but walk around.”
It’s a collaboration between police and the public, spotting crime and educating.
“I do believe that educating people about how to report things, what things warrant a call to police, what a dispatcher might ask you so what details to look for, that's all extremely positive community and police relationship building,” Sgt. Tokmenko said.
For the 50 dog walkers signed up so far, it’s a way to be part of the solution.
“We're a community of neighborhoods here so it feels like we're living our mission statement,” Porter said.
Police Chief Annette Mecklenburg said they will be evaluating the program at the end of the summer.
If you want to join, it’s easy. Visit the Cleveland Heights Police Department Facebook page for more information.