Antioch City Council hears about continued crime increase, wants to hire more police

By James Ott

Crime rates in Antioch are still soaring and the city’s police chief and council agree the best way to curtail that trend is to hire more cops – a move that will cost taxpayers millions if it is approved.

In an end-of-the-year report given at the council meeting, on Tuesday February 15, Antioch Police Chief Alan Cantando reported that Antioch’s crime rates were up and arrest rates were down from January to December 2012, compared with those same rates in 2011.

Total cases of violent crime were up 30.6 percent, including a doubling of homicide cases while property crime was up nearly 23 percent and arrests were down 13.7 percent, according to Cantando.

The main cause of those startling figures are that the city’s police force just doesn’t have enough manpower to keep up with a large, high-crime city like Antioch, said Cantando.

[It] comes from our staffing levels. Obviously the more officers you have on the streets, the more arrests you’re going to be able to make,” he said.

During his presentation, the Chief showed a slide comparing Antioch’s police force in 1995 with what it is today to illustrate why he believes crime rates may be so high.

Antioch in 1995 had about 75,000 residents and had 89 sworn officers to deal with it’s 48,000 calls for police service. Fast forward to today and the population has grown to 104,000 and must deal with over 81,000 calls for service and it only has 88 sworn officers. In addition Antioch has had to rid itself of nearly all of the specialized units such as the narcotics and traffic units it used to have in 1995.

Antioch City Council has actually approved up to 102 sworn officers and 6 Community Service Officers, (CSO’s), for the police force. Currently the city has 88 of those sworn positions filled with 7 more in the hiring process, leaving 7 vacancies waiting to be filled. Two CSO’s have been hired and one more is in the hiring process, leaving 3 CSO vacancies.

To fix the city’s crime problem Cantando presented the city council with two hiring options. He said that the city could approve hiring 24 more officers to get to the 126 sworn policeman he considers the minimum to get crime rates in check. The police force could then have dedicated officers for the area high schools, 4 traffic officers, 5 community officers, and a narcotics and a special response unit, among others.

It’s estimated that those 22 officers would cost taxpayer’s $3.6 million.

What Cantando really wants however, is to eventually have 144 sworn officers in Antioch. It would allow the same specialized units only they would be better staffed. The extra police would also allow things like specialized gang enforcement and burglary suppression – things that have plagued the city for years.

The cost for 42 more Antioch police? An estimated $6.8 million.

Despite the cost, Cantando and the city council say they support whatever is necessary to bring crime rates down in Antioch.

Mayor Wade Harper – a former Tracy Police Officer who ran his campaign mainly on reducing crime – said that the crime rates are unacceptable and he commended Cantando for working with the city to fix the problem.

Mayor Pro-Tem Mary Rocha, a resident of Antioch for decades lamented the city’s transformation into a high-crime city. “Those who haven’t lived here long don’t know what we’ve lost.”

Council member Gary Agopian, a self-professed fiscal conservative, said that the high cost needs to be paid, and he openly supported hiring up to 144 officers.

I’ve heard the argument that we can’t afford this. Well look what we’re affording right now,” said Agopian. “We’re affording reduced property values. Is that OK? Is it OK that we have to buy security systems? For a city our size we need the 144 sworn officers. I want to make that statement tonight – that’s the number we need. Nothing less because anything less gets us what we already have, and that’s not good enough.”

Several Antioch Residents showed up at the meeting, complaining of crime in their neighborhoods. Many said they see daily drug deals from low-income housing nearby.

Resident Shelly French who lives on rock island drive off of Deer Valley Road choked up when describing the two bullet holes that went through her husbands truck and into her garage.

If the city council decides to approve the hiring of additional officers, they will need to find funding and even then the city will likely wait for years to see the benefits of the new officers.

Antioch Police Department has been struggling to fill it’s current vacancies, let alone dozens more. According to Cantando that is due to the standard slow recruitment and hiring process for officers. He said that the city’s police department has gone through 833 applicants just to get those 7 sworn officer candidates that are currently in the hiring process – a capture rate of about one percent.

Chief Cantando said hiring those additional officers could take up to two more years.

Also at the Meeting:

The Bay Area’s Water Emergency Transportation Authority, (WETA), recently completed a feasibility study on the proposed Antioch Ferry Terminal.

At the last council meeting they presented city council with four possible locations for the ferry terminal.

The early estimates are that the terminal will cost from a low of about $7 to $17 million to a high of $18 to $26 million.

Two of the proposed sites were located off of the fishing pier while the other two were closer to the land area of downtown Antioch. The “fishing pier” sites tended to be less expensive due to some infrastructure being in place while the “downtown” sites tended to increase in price due to higher construction cost estimates.

The city council seemed to want the site that would most allow economic growth in the downtown area while still remaining affordable to the city.

The cost estimates are very early and the city and county would still eventually need to find revenue to pay for the terminal.

Ultimately this is going to feed into a discussion of a sales tax,” said WETA Planner Chad Mason. “Right now there is no operational funding for this project.”

Next up the city has to develop the project further, find funding partners and then go through the environmental review process.

Mayor Wade Harper planned to attend the meeting with WETA on February 21 to further discuss the project and will keep the city updated on it’s progress.

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6 Comments to “Antioch City Council hears about continued crime increase, wants to hire more police”

  1. karl says:

    again, no solutions coming from the council.
    i like to remind everybody that roch, harper, and agopian run their re-election campaign under “tough on crime”
    guess what. not one single solution brought forward from them. one would think harper as a 24 year police veteran has some idea…nada…none…..nichts.
    their solution is to raise taxes.
    we’re still spending money like there is no tomorrow. the council just gave a $ 3 million christmas gift to 21 none safety employees, by reversing their own vote. (3/55 back 3/50) so just think for a moment..we could have hired all the cso’s and code enforcement we need.
    we just spend $ 1,200 for portrait picture (tiscareno) i ask him about the cost “i did not know it’s that expensive” even he approved/ voted for the warrants.
    the council also approved several tausend (almost $ 40,000) dollars “please stay and help us” money for the out going city manager.
    yes, there is money, but none of our 5 council members knows how to spend it right.

  2. Arne Simonsen says:

    Mayor Wade Harper is a former TRACY police officer who retired before his 50th birthday.

  3. Christopher Wallace says:

    Why do the law abiding tax paying home owners of Antioch have to pay? Instead of endlessly fighting and spending our money on the high crime rate of Antioch, lets fight the source!…

    ANTIOCH MUST IMPOSE BUSINESS LICENSE REQUIREMENTS FOR RENTALS!!!

    That is the source of the majority of our problems. I will NEVER vote for more taxes until an ordinance passes on keeping the source of gang activity, drug dealing, burglaries, rapes, robberies, arson and scum bag nests in check through rental licenses.

    And how do you get the money to run this program?? HAVE LANDLORDS PAY A FEE FOR THE BUSINESS LICENSE!! They are running a business by renting to Section 8 at the expense of Antioch primary resident home owners.

    Once that is passed I want the money I am paying the new hired cops to keep tabs on these properties and, if needed, revoke rental licenses.

    So hear my out City Council! Until you start focusing on the SOURCE of our problems, this is an endless battle against crime. I will NEVER vote for more taxes for police until you start dealing with the SOURCE!!!

    As a side note… No I do not have an MBA in business or a Doctorate in Public Service. I merely used common sense in order to provide this solution… something the people who sit on that stage lack.

    City Council… seriously, your “no tolerence for cime” campaign during elections is a complete and utter joke. I can’t believe you all can sit up there every day and talk about “coulda woulda shoulda” concepts on crime.

    I have no idea how some of you managed to get your votes.

    Christopher Wallace

  4. karl says:

    @chris,

    well, they get their votes from unions, seenos, just look at the disaster how tiscareno got appointed.
    i hope antioch realizes that in june the new school bond kicks in.
    how much did we pay that “facilitator” ?

    NO NEW TAXES

  5. karl says:

    council member pay

    the numbers are report by the cities, so don’t shoot the messenger.

    antioch council members: about $ 30,000 ea.
    pittsburg council members: about $ 16,000 ea.
    oakley council members: $ 7,000 ea.

    we have 3 equipment operators which earn $ 187,000 ea !!!!!

    the tax payer just paid $ 1,200 for a portray picture of our newest council member.

    we still pay about $ 225 per pair of safety shoes for works employees.

    we just bought 20 new, but discontinued police cars, spend $ 500,000

    we have a lot of money…..we have a lot of money…..we have a lot of money

    • eileen liu says:

      Karl, where and how do you find this information? Also can you expand for example, on the equipment operators who get $187,000 each, as to the “Who what when where?” I mean, this is outrageous if true. We all need to learn how to keep tabs on the expenditures of these officials. I would like to know how you do it. Thanks.

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