How suburban police are using dog walkers to fight crime
You and your Yorkie can join police in the fight against crime in your neighborhood.
By taking part in efforts like Naperville's new "Paws on Patrol," which launched Wednesday with a pair of training sessions for interested dog owners.
The concept is simple: Pay attention to your surroundings when you're taking the dog for a walk, and call police if you spot something that trips your Spidey sense.
"We call this natural surveillance," Crime Prevention Officer Julie Smith told about two dozen civilians at Wednesday afternoon's training session. "You know your neighbors. You know your neighborhood best."
Frequent dog walkers also know which landscaping services their neighbors use (burglars last year impersonated landscapers), which houses might be vacant or have owners out of town, and what cars are normally around, Smith said.
She cautioned the dog walkers that they should remain observers, not vigilantes -- and definitely not to sic their dogs on suspected miscreants. Instead, they should call 911 right away when they suspect something's not right.
And don't have your nose buried in your phone while walking. "Put your cellphone down. Be aware of your surroundings," Smith said.
Resident Bill Fischer said he has learned his neighborhood and its residents while walking his 2-year-old golden Labrador, Nell, four times a day.
"I'll probably pay more attention now," he said.
And if making your neighborhood safer isn't reward enough, participants received a jaunty red bandanna for their four-legged partners that says "Dog Walker Watch."
Bartlett police launched a "Paws on Patrol" program last year. And while it hasn't yet resulted in any major busts, its benefits are apparent, said Deputy Chief Geoffrey Pretkelis.
"We look at it not only for its potential to help us solve cases, but also to help build positive relationships between the police department and the members of our community," he said.
Sgt. Kyle Rybaski said 75 dog owners participate in Bartlett's "Paws on Patrol," which recently celebrated its anniversary with a party featuring doggy cupcakes for its canine members.
"You'd be surprised how much information we can learn just from talking with the residents who know this town so well," Rybaski said.
While police launch "Paws on Patrol," Smith said Naperville Crime Stoppers has started a campaign to fight animal abuse, neglect and cruelty. Residents should continue to call 911 in an emergency, such as a dog's being locked in a hot car, but other issues can be reported by calling (630) 420-6006.
Arlington Heights police dog Max will be honored by the village board Tuesday as he retires after eight years of dedicated service.
A village proclamation will be read to acknowledge his career and achievements, which include apprehending criminals, finding missing persons and locating illegal contraband, not to mention taking part in numerous education and outreach efforts.
Max, a German shepherd who turned 10 last week, became the department's third police dog when he joined the force in September 2010. He's been partnered with officer Mike Butler.
Campus cops remain
School resource officers across the suburbs breathed a sigh of relief this week when Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that could have prevented schools from using state money to pay for law enforcement on campus.
The provision was included in House Bill 4208, legislation primarily aimed at eliminating disproportionate discipline in public schools and providing more mental health counselors and programs on campus.
Here's the catch: To receive state dollars for those programs, schools would have to take funding away from school cops and shift it to mental health services.
The bill was proposed by state Rep. Chris Welch, a Democrat from Westchester, who in April told The Associated Press that investing in mental health resources is the best way to address school violence.
In his veto message, Rauner wrote that local communities should decide how to use state money for school safety. He indicated he would sign the bill if the General Assembly removed the controversial provision.
"This restriction undermines the value of law enforcement personnel who have dedicated their lives to keeping schools safe," he added.
The proposal caused plenty of concern in the suburbs earlier this year, including in Buffalo Grove, where Police Chief Steve Casstevens told his village board it could keep police from getting involved in minor student issues, allowing them to become major problems.
"While I can understand part of this, the issue then with law enforcement is there may be a student that has had five or six encounters that the police don't know about, until the sixth encounter, when we have to respond," said Casstevens, who's also second vice president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
After eight years of dedicated service, Max is retiring from the Arlington Heights Police Department. He'll be honored with a ceremony and proclamation by the village board Tuesday night.
- Courtesy of Arlington Heights Police Department
High-five for Daddy
When Andrew Blum raised his right hand Monday to be sworn in as Geneva's newest police officer, his toddler daughter, Ellie, thought it signaled something else entirely.
So she started slapping her dad with some playful high-fives.
Blum maintained his composure and continued with his oath to serve and protect, all while holding Ellie.
Blum, who lives in Batavia, joins the Geneva force after previously serving as a campus officer at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Goodbye, Geneva Cmdr. Chief Julie Nash. She's retiring Sept. 7, after 28 years with the department.
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