Local hopes to reduce crime with new dog watch program

A local woman is turning the simple act of walking your dog into a block watch program in an effort to reduce crime in downtown Victoria.

A local woman is turning the simple act of walking your dog into a block watch program in an effort to reduce crime in downtown Victoria.

Ellen Henry has started the Downtown Victoria Dog Watch Program, where dog walkers act as neighbourhood block watchers and report any suspicious activity to the Victoria Police Department.

“The idea for this came from a convergence of different parts of our lives,” said Henry, who started a block watch program in her community street three years ago.

“We’re out with our dog all the time, not just confined to our block and we started to think ‘why not take the orientation we learned as block watch participants and apply that to the walks that we take with our dog normally’.”

In collaboration with the Victoria Downtown Residents Association, Henry said it will be modelled after the VicPD’s current block watch program, where participants take an observe and report role to help reduce crime in the area.

“When you form a community like that the folks that want to commit crime are less likely to be around,” she said, adding that they have had problems with drug-related crime, graffiti, break and enters and bike theft in the past.

“If we see someone checking car door handles or windows or looking into backyards . . . if we report that and a police cruiser comes along, they’re going to move along.”

Coun. Charlayne Thorton-Joe, an avid dog lover and liaison with the residents’ association, said the program is a great way to look out for the community.

“I’m really aware that we are the eyes and ears often in times when others might not be out,” she said, noting that an increasing amount of downtown residents own dogs.

“When it rains, our dogs still have to be walked. If it’s the middle of the night, if the dog wants to go out you have to take them for a walk.”

It is a program that the Victoria Police Department supports.

“VicPD certainly supports new initiatives aimed at increasing participation in our communities,” said Cst. Mike Russell with VicPD.

Henry said she hopes other communities will think about expanding the program to their neighbhourhoods, noting residents in Vic West have also expressed interest in it.

There is an info session on May 27 at Bosley’s at 911 Yates St from 6:30-8 p.m. for people who are interested in joining the program. For more information or to RSVP to the event, visit the Facebook page at Downtown Victoria Dog Watch Program or email info@victoriadra.com.