Dog Walkers Watch looks to add volunteers with upcoming event

The event will be held on June 17 and encourages pet owners to collaborate with the Gloucester Township Police Department to report suspicious activity

How many people have been out, walking their dogs, when they notice a strange person or vehicle in their neighborhood? Dog walkers tend to find a routine; they go along the same streets at the same time of day, so they’d be the perfect people to notice anything suspicious or out of place. But, if they did, what do they do?

Gloucester County Police Department has found a solution: Dog Walkers Watch, a neighborhood watch program for dog owners in town, allows dog walkers to keep an eye on their neighborhood and have a safe way to report crime.

The Dog Walkers Watch program was started by National Town Watch Association, a non-profit organization that establishes networks of law enforcement agencies with neighborhood watch groups and other volunteers across the nation.

Ptl. Jenn McLaughlin with the Gloucester Township Police Community Relations Bureau turned this idea into an event four years ago. At the event, people can sign up to join the Dog Walkers Watch, get assigned a card and dog watcher watch number on that day. Then, once they’ve joined, they can call any suspicious activity they see into the dispatcher and use their Dog Walker Watch number. This allows them to report crime anonymously.

The event this year will take place on June 17 at the Timber Creek Dog Park on Chews Landing Road from 10 a.m. to noon. At the event, there will be a demonstration on dog CPR, a K9 demonstration, an appearance by McGruff the Crime Dog and vendors that cater to dogs in different ways: everything from pet treat companies to pet stores such as PetValue to shelters.

There is also a lesson on Dog Watchers Watch, which discusses what it entails. Participants are able to report any suspicious activity, such as a vehicle or person who doesn’t belong.

“It will be a great event for our residents to come out to not only learn about Dog Walkers Watch, but they can also learn about our services and adopt a dog if they would like that day,” McLaughlin said.

This year, Camden County Animal Shelter and Don’t Bully Us Dog Rescue will be there with dogs for adoption. Chews Landing Veterinary Hospital will also be there.

“People usually have a routine,” McLaughlin said. “They know which vehicles belong there and what people belong in the community. We encourage them to give us a call so we can come out.”

The most important responsibility is for the citizen to be the best witness possible by giving detailed descriptions about the type of vehicle or the subjects they see. Even if they don’t know specifics, any details are helpful.

The Dog Watchers Watch is “the eyes and ears of the police,” according to McLaughlin.

It’s very important they do not take anything into their own hands, though.

“It’s all about partnering with our residents to make our community safer,” McLaughlin said. “It just opens up [another] pathway to reporting crime.”

The event has been successful in the past. Community members seem to really enjoy it “because [the police] are engaging pet owners in the community,” McLaughlin said. “Normally, [communities] don’t see that from a police perspective.”

There are many options for residents to report crime in Gloucester Township. Residents can join the Neighborhood Watch or the Dog Walker Watch, call the anonymous tip line at (856) 842–5560, call the police nonemergency number at (856) 224–4500, use the link at the bottom of the Nixle email messages to submit an anonymous tip, use the Text A Tip line by texting “TIP GLOTWPPD” followed by message to 888–777 or email communityrelations@gppolice.com.