Thorpe blames Sycamore shopping center business, property owners for crime problems

Photos of Sycamore Square sign and shopping center taken and posted by Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe on his official Facebook page on Saturday, July 24, 2021.

Ignores councilwoman’s request for more officers; offers police overtime, youth jobs program instead; will hold another press conference Monday

“I’m prepared to declare this site a public nuisance and require owners to take the necessary steps to mitigate issues that make it easy for criminal activity to occur on private property.” – Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe

“How can they pass the blame to us? How can we take the law into our own hands?” – Quik Stop owner.

By Allen Payton

In response to District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker’s request for the city to hire four more police officers and focus them on the Sycamore corridor, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe said he met with residents, business and property owners in that neighborhood. In response, he blames the property owner of and business owners in the Sycamore Square shopping center at the corner of Sycamore Drive and L Street and is expecting them to take action to reduce crime. In a post on his official Facebook page on Saturday, Thorpe wrote that he’s “prepared to declare this site a public nuisance and require owners to take the necessary steps to mitigate the issues that make it easy for criminal activity to occur on the private property.”

His complete post reads:

“Sycamore Square… ripe for opportunity but for over 3 decades has been riddled with drug activity that spirals into violence. I spent this week visiting with the property owner, store front owners, residents, and yes the people involved in illicit activities about the challenges surrounding this little strip mall.

On Monday at 11 am (in the parking lot), I’ll be holding a press conference unveiling a crime prevention package focused on taking youth off Antioch’s streets by providing them with employment.

I’ll also be putting the property and store front owners on notice, I’m prepared to declare this site a public nuisance and require owners to take the necessary steps to mitigate issues that make it easy for criminal activity to occur on private property.

Additionally, I’ll discuss additional police overtime for proactive enforcement, a partnership with Contra Costa County Probation Department and more.”

Thorpe is ignoring Torres-Walker’s request of hiring the additional officers and have them focus on the Sycamore corridor with a community, proactive policing effort. (See related article)

There is nothing on next Tuesday’s council meeting agenda about her request nor District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica’s request to increase the number of sworn police officers on the force by 2.5% per year until the state staffing average of 1.48 officers per 1,000 population is reached. (See related article)

There are now three council members who support hiring at least an additional three to four officers, this year, although the council on a 4-1 vote, last month, approved a two-year budget for the city without including any more sworn officers. Only District 3 Councilmember Lori Ogorchock voted against the budget. She supports including funding for more officers in the budget, as well. (See related article)

Barbanica Responds

From efforts to reach council members for their comment on the mayor’s proposal, only Barbanica responded before publication time.

“I’m in that neighborhood on a weekly basis dealing with property owners and a lot of them feel like they don’t know what to do,” he stated. “You have people taking advantage of the system. You have people moving out of the neighborhood.”

“It’s a situation where business owners are scared and reaching out for help,” Barbanica continued. “I think we need to be partnering with the business and property owners.”

“I know the homeowners in that area voted in the past couple of years to have a homeowners’ association special assessment to have gates and fencing installed,” he explained. “That was paid for by the homeowners.”

“Unless the mayor has information that I don’t, I know those business owners have been victimized as much as the homeowners and residents in that neighborhood,” Barbanica stated. “But if we can put more patrols in that area, anything we can do to add more patrols and more police officers in our community, I’m always in support of hiring more police officers. However, I want to hear the specific plan for that area.”

An effort to reach one of the merchants in the shopping center was also unsuccessful before publication time.

7-25-21 UPDATE: Quik Stop Owner Responds

The owner of Quik Stop, who chose to remain anonymous, reached out to the Herald and shared his thoughts and concerns about Thorpe’s proposal.

“He’s been out here at the property, the shopping center for the entire week,” the store owner said. “He came by with Councilwoman Torres-Walker, in the same car, which was kind of odd. She’s been out with him a couple times this past week.”

Asked what he thought of the mayor’s comments, the Quik Stop owner said, “that kind of caught everybody on the property off guard. How can they pass the blame to us? How can we take the law into our own hands?”

“Most of the people causing the problems don’t live in the neighborhood,” he stated. “But unfortunately everyone, here is affected by it.”

“We’ve owned that store since 1992. Actually, my father owned it back then. So, we’ve seen the changes,” he shared. “Back in the late 90’s the neighborhood was decent. It’s not as bad as it is, now.”

“If they declare it a public nuisance that’s going to cause more problems,” he continued. “The last thing you want to do is bring more negativity.”

“What he (Thorpe) told me, is if people who are out here causing the problems want a job, they’re to come see us and we’ll give them jobs,” he said.

Asked if he and the other business owners had agreed to that, he responded, “we never agreed to anything. This was early on in the week before he made his statement on Saturday.”

Asked if the business owners have an association or have worked together to address the problems they face, he responded, “we’ve tried in the past. But not everyone agrees. We signed up for the city’s Business Watch. We’ve been very cooperative with the police, any time they need help or information. Any kind of (security camera) footage they need.”

“We even have vendors that are very hesitant to even deliver to our businesses,” he explained. “That Sycamore Drive is famous for the wrong reasons.”

“They need to focus on hiring more police if they want it moving in the right direction,” he continued. “They just want to pass the blame onto others, the business owners, which is ridiculous. Our businesses suffer when the problems occur.”

“We’re constantly calling dispatch letting them know we have 30 people out here, shooting dice, etc,” said the convenient store owner. “Sometimes, depending on how busy they are, we have to call several times, and they say they’ll send an officer. But when they roll up the people out here, scatter.”

“The police officers get frustrated with the DA not prosecuting. I’ve come across great officers. But their hands are tied,” he stated. “The DA doesn’t want to do anything. They book them then an hour later they’re right back outside, again. We’ve seen this.”

“I just want to find out what the mayor’s plan is. It was unfair that he wants to pass on the blame to the business owners. It’s not the right thing to do,” he reiterated. “What are we supposed to do?”

Please check back later for any additional updates to this report.

 

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Sycamore Square sign & Thorpe selfie 072421


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