“It’s a very simple equation,” said Antioch Crime Prevention Commissioner Hans Ho. “The more officers you have out there, the better you are going to be at fighting crime.”
The grant agreement dictates the officers must be military veterans who have been honorably discharged and served after Sept. 11, 2001 for no less than 180 days.
Antioch was chosen among 220 departments nationwide and 34 in California to receive the grant, which was given to departments based on fiscal need, local crime rates and its strategy to address problems such as homicide and gun violence.
The funds will provide 75 percent of the new officers’ salaries and fringe benefits up to $125,000 per hire during the three-year life of the grant.
According to City Councilman Gary Agopian, the city has not determined how it will cover the remaining 25 percent it’s responsible for, or how it will match 20 percent of the funds given to the department as required by the grant agreement. The city will be responsible for about $750,000.
“Getting five new officers is definitely a plus, but it comes with strings attached,” Agopian said.
The city’s Finance Department is working on solutions to come up with the necessary funds, which will be proposed to the council at future meetings, Agopian said. The city is projected to face a $2.46 million deficit in 2013 and $4.9 million by 2014.
The new hires come as crime is statistically on the rise from the same time last year, and the number of officers on the force is less than allocated.
The department is working with 35 fewer sworn officers, and no non-sworn officers, who were all laid off in 2009. The number of arrests is down, but rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, vehicle theft and arson are all on the rise, according to the city’s crime statistics (through the month of May).
In addition to the five officers hired through the grant, the city has announced it will hire five additional officers on a per-diem basis. “It’s going to be a while before things will look totally better, but things are on the upswing,” said Antioch Mayor Jim Davis.
Ho said he is ecstatic the department is getting more officers, but believes it’s a small fix for a big issue. “The grant is not going to be there forever,” Ho said. “We need a long-term plan that will guarantee police funding – one that is dedicated to public safety and not at the discretion of politicians.”