Antioch Council hears latest report on crime from police chief, postpones homeless camping ordinance

chiefs-2016q3-report-part-1-crime-statsBy Allen Payton

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, October 25th, the Antioch City Council heard Police Chief Allan Cantando’s Third Quarter Report on crime and police department activities, postponed a homeless camping ordinance, and some compliments and complaints from a few residents, including a council candidate and his wife.

Extra Mile Day Proclamation

At the beginning of the meeting, a special proclamation was read and presented to a group of Antioch residents for their efforts to clean up the blight in the city.

Mayor Wade Harper read the proclamation declaring Tuesday, November 1st as “Extra Mile Day” was presented to the Facebook group entitled “Cleaning Up Antioch One Home at a Time,” represented by Denise Cantrell, Dale Lutes, Hilda Parham and Lucas Stuart-Chilcote.

“We inherited this from Lori Cook and we just kept on going,” said Lutes.

She mentioned Denise Cantrell, “who’s actually been our hardest worker. We just go out there and clean up.”

Denise Cantrell just said “Thank you.”

Lutes then spoke of Edward Atrim.

“He was the muscle,” she said. “He and his truck were there and his pressure washer, donuts and orange bags from the city.”

Public Comments

During public comments Cantrell then spoke about the trees needing trimming on the trails.

“I’m here asking for help on some of the trails we have,” she stated. “I have sent multiple GO (Government Outreach) requests for the trails.”

She mentioned homeless camping along the trails and asked that city staff “lift the branches up for our kids’ safety.”

“I’ve emailed (Assistant City Manager and Public Works Director) Ron Bernal, (City Manager) Steve Duran, last year and there’s been fires on the Morgan Trail and recently kids doing fireworks,” Cantrell explained. “I’m like the only trimming along Pawnee and leaving them.”

She also spoke of a GO request for trash at a bus stop.

“After six months, Lucas and I trimmed the branches,” Cantrell continued. “The branches are still there. This, our third year trimming the tree and the tree is growing again. I’m hoping Public Works will see this.”

Harper responded with “I will forward this on to Mr. Duran and Mr. Bernal. You really do go the extra mile.”

Resident Valerie Kelley was next to speak with compliments and a complaint.

“I’d like to say thank you to Mr. Duran, (Mayor Pro Tem) Lori (Ogorchock) and (Councilwoman) Mary  (Rocha) for getting back to me and dealing with a problem we have with the homeless,” she said. “I want you to notice. Because Mr. Harper you haven’t called me back. I have called repeatedly. I have called Code Enforcement and all you get is an answering machine and never get a call back.”

“There’s (sic) prescriptions and bottles and bottles of booze,” Kelley continued. “They start fires and I get reported for Spare the Air Day. I’m not burning. Last night the orange glow was on the hill. But no one will go up there. They’re homeless of their choice. They’re out there panhandling.”

“I can’t wait for the day when November 1st comes and the shopping carts will be taken away,” she stated. “It’s right there between View Drive and the middle school. It’s sad this is going on. We have to do more for the homeless. But it’s not working. So I’m asking for your help.”

Harper responded, “I will be getting with you, Ms. Kelly. I have your phone number, here.”

Resident Hilda Parham, said “I’m here piggybacking on the last speaker” and spoke of the trails, as well.

Fred Rouse, candidate for city council, spoke about the current council members and said they haven’t accomplished much. He spoke of “mixed messages and empty promises.”

“Many don’t trust the propaganda and…materials,” he stated. “It doesn’t add up to us and hasn’t added up for a long time.”

Stuart-Chilcote was next to speak.

“This is an important night,” he said speaking of the Extra Mile Day proclamation. “We have put a lot of hours into this city. We have dire love for this city. We really respect the seniority and the members of the Facebook page that Lori has created. We would like to see Public Works do more of what we’re doing. I think the point is…we would like to see a more presence. We kinda feel like we’re by ourselves.”

Tina Chavez Rouse spoke, next giving the council members an earful.

“I’ve had it up to here,” she said. “I’ve been a resident of Antioch for 20 years. Yes, I am the wife of Frederick Rouse. All candidates are not playing fair…many of you are unscrupulous and make backdoor deals…these are lies to the citizens. You must show your true colors and true passion of what you can really do…candor, respect.”

“Sorry to say but I haven’t seen any of this these past four years,” Chavez Rouse continued. “Don’t make empty promises. Listen to the people If you make a mistake admit it don’t make excuses. Honesty is the best policy. Boycotting. That is your way of hurting your chance of getting elected. Collections of past due money owed to the city. I’m quite surprised that the City Manager hasn’t fought and negotiated harder and smarter for our city. My husband has handled millions and billions of dollars.”

She then said she would make further comments to the Police Commission about the CIA and FBI.

“Why did this take until now to come out?” she asked.

Police Chief’s Third Quarter Report

Police Chief Allan Cantando then gave his Third Quarter Report for 2016. chief-cantandos-2016q3-report

“Speaking of volunteers,” he said, “they’re the unsung heroes of our community. We couldn’t do what we’re doing without them, today.”

During a recent news interview he was asked about “the council interfering with my job as police chief. For my happiness, Council does not do that. But all of you have approached me with concerns from citizens that the department has had to address.”

“You’ll see the marijuana that we’re dealing with they’re mostly latent,” Cantando said. “We’ve been very busy with marijuana arrests.”

“We’ve had nine homicides,” he stated. “Two of those were justified homicides, according to the DA’s office. Those are not counted. So we’re sitting at seven homicides.”

“Our calls are prioritized,” Cantando continued. “All calls are important. We will get to all of them. Maybe not as fast as the public would like. But, understand we are rebuilding the Antioch Police Department.”

“We’ve had a 97% increase in proactivity in our city,” he explained. “Every time we are doing these proactive details…and it comes out to about two FTE’s (full time employees). We’re seeing drops in our crime because we have those officers out there on overtime. So we are getting the bang for our buck. Unfortunately, we are having to do this on an overtime basis.”

Regarding response times Cantando stated, “although they’re not where I want them to be they have dropped from 10:06 to 9:52. I went to get down to the nine-minute mark.”

“There were 1,100 cars removed from our streets,” he shared regarding auto abatement. “So we’re seeing a reduction in blight. People say to me, they approach me and tell me they see a difference…and they’re absolutely correct.”

We’re authorized 102 sworn police officer positions,” Cantando stated. “We have 93 sworn on the force. We have four lateral police officers starting Halloween. We’re hiring faster than any department in our county.”

“We’ve actually hired 41 police officers (since Measure C passed),” he said. “But, I can’t control time. We have people who go out on retirement. We’ve had eight people who have resigned. We’ve had to let some people go…a net of 11 officers.”

“They are getting paid while they’re working for us,” Cantando explained regarding the use of Measure C funds. “Having 41 officers on the payroll at different times, it’s going to cost the General Fund.”

“It’s not a matter of getting applicants…but qualified applicants,” he continued. “We’re not just going to put people on the street to say we’ve hired people.”

Cantando then spoke of the PAL Golf Tournament, Legos and the Law and other efforts by the APD, saying “we do a lot of community outreach.”

He mentioned Panther Tails, about how on Thursdays, the Antioch High Cross Country Team takes some dogs out and get them exercise.

“We had the APD Open House, the first one in 10 years,” Cantando shared. “Again, another huge success. It was well over 1,000 people we gave tours to. It was just a great day for the police department.”

He then mentioned the Candy Giveaway at the police facility on Saturday, October 29th. “This Saturday from 2-4 p.m. we will have a Candy Giveaway at the Police Department. They will be able to play on the vehicles we have out there. Rain or shine.”

Harper then asked, “Are we using outside background investigators for the hiring process?”

“We’ve been doing that for about 15 years,” the Chief responded. “If we can’t handle the load, we will bring on an outside contractor. Last year, we spent $14,000 or $15,000 on outside sources. We’re going full speed. I don’t know why that was even brought up.”

“Can you give an example of when a homicide is justified?” Harper asked.

“If a victim being robbed has a weapon and defends themselves and shoots the robber, the DA won’t charge them with a homicide,” Cantando explained.

“Thank you for your report, Chief,” said Wilson. “Going back to your hiring…41 officers with a net of 11. Can you talk about what you’re doing about new hires versus laterals?”

“If you have a service retirement, it’s very easy to say this person is going to retire on this date,” hestated. “But, it doesn’t always work that way.  We are still in the process of hiring police officers. “We can’t hire past the 102 because that’s the allotted number. That’s a council and city manager decision.”

“This council unfortunately has to deal with what councils decided many, many years ago,” Cantando continued. “It’s not because we’re not hiring a lot of police officers, it’s just that we have to hire so many to catch up. We’re doing everything we can with the knowledge we have. We cannot predict medical retirements or if someone is going to make field training or not.”

Wilson then asked about “homelessness and the assignment of two officers.”

“It’s still in process,” he said. “None of the council members have been shy about speaking with me about dealing with the homeless. I’m going to actually dispatch two officers to deal with…homeless, quality of life issues.”

Cantando spoke of “getting people services,” and “If we’re having a rash of a certain crime, they will deal with that.”

Ogorchock said, “Thank you for your report. It shows how hard our officers are working. They’re doing a very good job.”

“There’s a rumor about more CSO’s and less officers,” she said.

“Yes, I have heard a lot of that,” Cantando said with a chuckle. “Volunteers can’t do it. CSO’s can’t do it. It takes an officer to deal with violent crime.”

“Once we get to the 102 officers, if the budget can afford more CSO’s, it’s absolutely needed,” he said. “Resources need to be directed to those officers. I recommend we focus on hiring police officers. Because police officers can do anything a CSO can do.”

Ogorchock asked about license plate readers.

“License plate readers will be up by this Friday,” Cantando responded. “The amount of cars at those four intersections, are as much as how many go through Pittsburg on the freeway.”

“Those are live feed, correct on your phones?” she asked.

“We can set up an app for it,” he saidd. “We only have two (vehicles with license plate readers. The cost is $15,000 per vehicle.”

Asked about the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), Cantando said they have reached out to Maddy’s Fund and they will do it for ARF.

Ogorchock also mentioned the off ramp at Hillcrest and the “no right on read. It’s an accident waiting to happen,”

I agree, said Cantando.

She also asked about the U-turns on A Street near Jack-in-the-Box.

“Is there something we can do to bring awareness to that area?” she asked.

“There is,” he replied. “I will be talking to (Deputy Public Works Director) Mike Bechtold about making the signs bigger.”

Councilman Tony Tiscareno then offered his comments.

“We do not interfere I can honestly say. We let you do your job,” he stated. “I depend on your expertise…and you are transparent.”

“We are rebuilding our police force,” Tiscareno continued. “We aren’t like we used to be 10 years ago. And to have 41 officers hired..I’ve spoken with other cities…they don’t see those numbers. They’re kind of offended we’re taking some officers out of those cities. We can’t force people to stay here. People get sick…retire. I’m very proud of you guys. You’re doing a lot of good work. The crime suppression…I’d like to see that continue. I do understand the criticism. But we do know what you do for our city.”

“The officers are the ones who do the heavy lifting,” said Cantando.

Rocha said, “One thing I like about you and the department is you’ve given it the heart. I like the Legos. I want to see more open houses.”

“In this country it’s different…we do obey our laws,” she continued, then mentioned “the peddlers on the highway. What’s our plan?”

“People who are habitually panhandling on our highways,” Cantando said, and that some “are intoxicated. We do sometimes send them to county jail. They don’t always stay there. That’s why I want two officers dedicated to that.”

“I live in this community, as well, I don’t like seeing it. My family doesn’t like seeing it.” he continued. “Those same types of people are in Walnut Creek, Lafayette. They’re everywhere.”

Harper then shared his thoughts on the Chief’s report.

“We’re all happy with the PD and your efforts,” he said. “We see blight…people panhandling on our offramps…we see the man in an ace bandage in a wheelchair…dancing with his sign. We see him every day. You leave, they come back. They put up a fence by Jack in the Box…to move some of the campers along. We see they’re sharing the wheelchair…a different person in the wheelchair.”

During public comments on the report, Karen Kopps asked about staffing in Animal Services.

“I was happy to see ARF will be coming in next week,” she said. “But I’m a little confused by the information given by the Chief. Has the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] been signed? If not what is holding that up? If it is signed when will they be coming in to make recommendations? Are they just coming in to making recommendations or are they going to be making changes? Because we’ve had recommendations by experts over the years but they haven’t all been implemented, yet.”

She also asked about “dead on arrival” and transfers of animals.

“How many died in the care of shelter staff?” Kopps asked. “What’s the difference between transfers and rescues?”

Cantando responded, “Yes, the MOU has been signed. They’re coming in on Thursday to tell us the direction they’re going to be taking. It’s still our animal shelter. They are going to be making recommendations. They said they’ll be here for a year.”

“For the last two months people have been complaining we’re not giving it (animal services) enough attention,” he continued. “Well, I’m giving it attention. Now on social media they’re saying we’re giving it too much attention with a police lieutenant.”

Proposed Camping Ordinance

City Attorney Michael Vigilia presented the options for the Council on a proposed camping ordinance, “to address blight issues related to the homeless population.”

The City would be “essentially prohibiting erecting a temporary shelter on public property,” he said. “Other cities have camping ordinances. They’re upheld across the nation. It’s when they enforce them against a certain population” that poses a problem.

“There are a line of cases and a number of courts that have come to the conclusion that a community has to take into account the amount of shelter space when enforcing ordinances,” Vigilia stated. “There’s no definitive court case.”

The city is sorely lacking in shelter space at this time…which would make it difficult to enforce a camping ordinance…as it raises the risk of civil litigation,” he explained. “It certainly doesn’t mean we don’t have options,” and then mentioned “trespassing laws” and “loitering laws.”

“The absence of this ordinance hasn’t really hindered the city’s efforts,” Vigilia continued. “It would just be an additional tool. But, under the current circumstances with the limited shelter space and the uncertainty of the law” it doesn’t make sense to adopt an ordinance “right now.”

So the city can pass one, but “the challenges arise when it comes to enforcement,” he added.

“Do we have a current camping ordinance, right now?” asked Harper

“No,” Vigilia replied.“You run into constitutional issues which you have to be concerned about” when you begin enforcement.

But he said that ordinances dealing with parks that close at dusk or next to railroad tracks, are acceptable.

“Brentwood has one but it’s under its parks ordinance and has to deal with a certain camping permit in their parks. Oakley and Pittsburg don’t have one,” said Vigilia.

Council members then discussed the matter.

“If we only hammer the homeless on camping issues we open ourselves to (legal) exposure,” Harper stated. He agreed with holding off on the camping ordinance.

“I’d still like to see some options,” Wilson stated. “Berkeley has gone through this. I think Martinez has gone through this. I think it’s good to have tools in our tool box. We do have a few individuals who abuse our parks.”

“When I went to the League of Cities and saw the presentation of the three cities, all they’re doing is moving the camps, costing them money, as they move from camp to camp to camp,” Ogorchock said. “I think we need to start bringing pressure on the county to get some funding out here,” and mentioned “working with our sister (neighboring) cities.”

“Law enforcement, Code Enfocement have ample tools to deal with what’s out there, right now,” Vigilia said. “This would be an additional tool when the time is right.”

“I was thinking of four wheels moving around in the city,” Rocha said. “That’s the one we have to deal with causing problems and affecting the environment.”

“The camping ordinances that are out there don’t deal with camping in your car,” Viglia responded.

Rocha said, “this actually is what we’re dealing with is the encampments we’re talking about. Not the four-wheel.”

“I think it’s positive we explore other options,” Tiscareno stated. “There are other cities who have this ordinance. I’d like to know how it’s well received out there. I can agree to…explore some of the options that you can bring back to us.”

Budget Adjustments – More Revenue Than Expected

The next agenda item was a report on a cleanup of the budget since the Council adopted it on June 30, 2016 and contained more good news, with the City received greater revenue than expected.

Budget Amendments were requested by City Finance Director Dawn Merchant

“Revenues are coming in significantly higher than expected,” she said, mentioning an “increase by $941,000.”

But there was also a “reduction in revenues from other agencies by $800,000,” yet an “increase in other revenues of $1 million for reimbursement by the State Water Department.”

“We received…more in property tax…more in business license tax,” Merchant continued. “Per council policy on one-time revenues, 50% of the savings are to be applied to pay down the unfunded liabilities.”

She said the City was “replacing a deficit with a surplus, with the budget amendments,” for this fiscal year.

“It’s important to know to balance the budget even with healthy reserves,” Merchant continued. “Dipping into the fund balance is not a good habit to get into.”

“The General Fund is still projecting a deficit…running out of money two years after Measure C runs out,” she warned. “If Measure C is not extended, the General Fund will lose approximately $7 million per year.”

Harper spoke of being happy about Measure C funds coming in more than projected.

“We’re looking good, today,” he stated. “But we have to look out for the future.

“Very good report,” said Harper. “When are we going to get the results of our audit?”

Merchant responded, “It’s due by December 31st. It will be presented usually the second meeting in January.”

“We get questions about Cost Allocations. Is there a better way to discuss them, maybe pictures?” Harper asked.

Merchant agreed to try to make the Cost Allocation Plan easier to understand.

“I’m really happy…its’ exciting to see the unfunded liability starting to go down,” Ogorchock said. “I know it’s small right now.”

Vineyard Self-Storage

The Council then had a discussion about the Vineyard Self-Storage Facility on Vineyard Drive at East 18th Street and the associated sewer line.

Harper was the only one to speak.

“I’m not in favor of continuing this,” he said. “I think we’ve met due diligence. I think it’s time we approved this project.”

The item was approved on a unanimous, 5-0 vote.

Marsh Creek Corridor

The Council was asked for their support for a multi-use trail along the Marsh Creek corridor. 15-miles long from Clayton to an area just south of Brentwood, connecting downtown Concord to the shoreline in Oakley. While it doesn’t directly affect Antioch, Rocha raised a concern of a potential conflict of interest if the project is seeking money the city might want for something else.

“We always want to be a good partner with our neighboring cities,” Tiscareno said. He also wanted to make sure there wasn’t any fiscal impact on the city.

The City of Concord declined to go ahead with it. They’re currently redoing their bicycle plan, staff explained. Because it isn’t finalized yet they’re reluctant to go forward with support at this time. Clayton and Brentwood both support it.

“I’m all for trails and people be in more walkable communities,” Councilwoman Monica Wilson said, then asked if there is “any potential of any of our trails connecting to this trail?”

“This trail is part of a larger project. The Delta DeAnza trail which goes through Antioch would connect to Oakley.

During public comments, Juan Pablo Galvan, Land Use Manager for Save Mt. Diablo said, “I want to thank you for considering this resolution. We’ve been very enthusiastic about this project.”

“I do know we have a variety of bicyclists in the community,” Ogorchock added. “I do believe it will benefit them in our city.”

“We want to make sure we have good bicycle trails and open space…to enjoy,” Tiscareno shared. “Potentially, where I don’t think we’re going to look at any funding mechanism. We do want to see those trails go through the waterfront. I think this is a good start. I do speak in favor of the motion.”

“Hopefully we won’t have to compete for the same funds, later, for our ferry terminal,” Harper stated.

The motion to support the project passed 5-0.

Council Communications

During Council Communication, Wilson said, “I do have an agenda item request. Can we bring back all of our request list that council members have already put in to make sure we’re within the time limits?”

“We can always ask about that stuff in our one-on-ones,” Harper said. “I’m in agreement.”

The meeting adjourned at 9:41 p.m. The next Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 8th at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers. It can also be viewed either on Comcast Local Cable Channel 24 or via livestreaming on the the city’s website, by clicking here.

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