By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The meeting room at the Southwest Precinct was full almost to overflowing this morning as more than 50 people, accompanied by their very patient dogs, showed up for the Paws on Patrol launch.
The precinct’s Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Danner observed that she hadn’t seen the room that full in a long time. Assisted by her North Precinct counterpart Mary Amberg, Danner revealed to attendees what Paws on Patrol is all about.
It’s essentially a riff on Block Watch … Bark Watch, if you will. It’s based on a national program called Dog Walker Watch. The premise is simple: If you have a dog, you’re out walking it daily, no matter what the weather. So you might be first to spot neighborhood crime in progress. Pay attention while you’re out with your pup – don’t be head-down staring on your phone: “When you are walking, we really want you to be aware.”
Much of the presentation – which was accompanied by an outdoor resource fair involving local pet-related providers – involved training on how to deduce what’s suspicious (“you know your neighborhood best (and know) “what’s not normal”), and when to call 911.
“95 percent of all police arrests are the direct result of a citizen 911 call,” Danner noted. As has been repeated over and over and over at community meetings we’ve covered in the past 12 years, if it’s happening now, CALL 911. Don’t call the non-emergency number. You’re not “bothering” police. If the calltaker answering 911 determines what you’re calling about is not an emergency, they’ll transfer you. And if what you’re calling out turns out not to be a crime, “it’s OK to be wrong.”
Not only can you be a crime spotter, you can be a crime preventer, Danner said – the program is intended to let criminals know, “dog walkers DO REPORT suspicious activity.”
As the dogs continued patiently keeping watch, their people heard other advice and reminders, such as judging people by their behavior, not their appearance – and go with your “gut feelings”; if you think something is wrong, it may well be. Keep watch for suspicious situations involving vehicles as well as people – parked in an unusual location, full of what might be stolen property, etc.
If you feel safe doing it, you can speak to suspicious-seeming people, attendees were advised – say hello. And if they’re at your door and you don’t want them there, added Community Police Team Officer Nic Plemel. tell them to leave your property; if they don’t, call police, because then they’re trespassing.
A few more 911 tips – be succinct, calm, and clear; let the operator ask the questions; if you want to talk to the officer, tell them proactively you want contact. (That’s not required; you can also be anonymous.) If you are out and don’t know the exact address of something/somewhere you’re calling about, just look for the nearest street number as a reference. And don’t hang up until they tell you it’s OK too – they are dispatching officers even as they speak with callers, and might need to ask you more questions.
(Side note – 911 is the topic at the precinct next Tuesday, at the West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meeting – 6:30 pm September 24th.)
Those in attendance today got special SPD-logo tags for their dogs.
If you couldn’t be there, Danner tells us, you’ll have another chance; another meeting will be scheduled at a TBA date. Questions? firstname.lastname@example.org is how to reach her.