Payton Perspective: Antioch should consider contracting with private security firms to improve public safety and save tax money

I believe it’s time APayton Perspective logontioch leaders thought outside the box when it comes to improving our public safety.

One way to do that is to contract with private security firms at a much lower cost per person. Many of their employees are retired police officers and former military personnel and have some level of training. Make them Reserve Officers so they can carry a gun, drive a police car and respond, not just report a crime. Instead of $120,000 a year we could get an officer on the street for about $50,000.

As the Council considers which way to increase revenue to the city to afford to hire the additional police personnel we need – as we are down to staffing levels as they were in 1995 during my first year on the City Council, to which we added 19 officers in the following three years – they need to find a way to provide an increased level of service for less money.

The additional presence in the community of officers patrolling neighborhoods, shopping centers and streets will help drive down crime.

That was the intent when I first proposed the Volunteers In Public Safety when I was on the Council. While the current VIPS do a good job in the areas they’ve been assigned, they don’t patrol in police cars as I was hoping, and therefore don’t provide the same police presence that would serve as a deterrent to crime.

I’ve been told this idea of contracting to private security firms is ahead of it’s time. Perhaps so. But, I believe it must be considered and the City should be innovative and find a way to implement it.

The Council, working with Chief Allan Cantando, can set training standards that the private security employees would have to meet.

In addition, the City should implement a vetting process that would evaluate qualified private contractors before selecting, “approved” vendors. Selection criteria would include, licensing, training, minimum insurance coverage, pending/prior civil action, past experience in similar scope of duty, etc.

Qualified security contactors could augment the police by handling all “B” priority calls such as, alarm response, prisoner transports, suspicious persons calls, trespassing, loitering, vandalism reports and any other quality of life issues that negatively impact our community.

Private security firms currently patrol City parks and provide campus safety at several schools in the Antioch district. Their mere presence alone at these venues has affected significant reductions in police service calls and allowed the police to focus their efforts on more critical issues elsewhere in the City.

The Council should study this option, before putting whatever tax measure they plan to place on the November ballot, in order to reduce the total amount of the tax.

Antioch should and must be a leader in finding lower cost, creative ways to reduce crime, and now. We can’t wait for any more increases to violent crime, robberies of our residents, homes or businesses. The time to act is now.

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