Acting Police Chief Allan Cantando, in his first address Tuesday night at the City Council meeting since taking over for retired Jim Hyde, said his department will adjust the way it operates in order to meet the needs of the residents.
Cantando compared the staffing level at Antioch to Richmond and Concord. As it stands now, Antioch’s 104 cops and population of 102,000 work out to 1.01 officer for every 1,000 residents. The prospective layoff of six officers would reduce that ratio to .96 officers.
By contrast, Richmond (population 103,000) employs 194 officers (1.88 officers per 1,000), while Concord (population 130,000) employs 154 (1.26 officers per 1,000).
“Currently, we’re working in staffing levels from the mid-1990s,” Cantando said. “In spite of that, I think we’re keeping a good lid on our crime issue, but there’s always room for improvement.”
Antioch officers won’t be able to investigate many property and narcotics crimes, especially those without leads, instead focusing on violent crimes. Cantando said cops will be moved to different areas and different needs as times change. The department will also work with other agencies to study how they fight crime with a reduced staff.
Cantando’s presentation about the department’s new action plan came during a meeting in which a few citizens expressed their fears about public safety. Small-business owner Alma Medina said she’s starting to question opening her doors in Antioch. There was also a mention of The Crossings shopping center off Hillcrest Drive. Community activist Gary Gilbert said Tuesday that, according to an employee at the center, a private security company’s armed guard there was to be eliminated. Such an action would be “totally unacceptable given the previous crime issues that plagued the shopping center two years ago but decreased substantially after full-time armed security personnel began patrolling the area,” Gilbert said by e-mail this week. The center’s management could not be reached for confirmation.
“With the crime rate on the rise, I hope you understand that you’re putting us in a very dangerous situation,” Medina told the council. “How are we supposed to feel comfortable with the fact that we are not protected?”
The acting chief urged the public to focus on his officers’ accomplishments. Though the 15 homicides in 2010 represent a major spike from 2009, Cantando pointed out that arrests have been made in 12 of those cases, a tribute to the quick work of the police force.
Cantando shared other statistics, comparing the past two years. From January through November of 2010, Antioch actually saw fewer violent crimes – 840 in 2009 to 792 in 2010. However, in that same period, property crimes excluding arson jumped from 2,455 in 2009 to 2,774 in 2010.
The department will likely lean more on the community as the budget crunch increases. The city has established an account benefiting the police department at Antioch Community Federal Credit Union, 301 G St. Donations may also be dropped off at City Hall or the department headquarters. Antioch Auto Center president Tom Nokes has promised to match whatever the community can raise, up to $100,000.
Cantando also called for citizens to be a little more aware of their surroundings and not be afraid to call police if something looks suspicious.
As officers await their fate, no resolution has been reached in terms of concessions from the Antioch Police Officers Association, according to City Manager Jim Jakel. The city and APOA met in closed session before and after Tuesday night’s meeting. Talks were positive, said councilman Gary Agopian, and a resolution might be reached within a week. Jakel is hoping that agreements from all seven labor organizations can be brought to council by its Feb. 8 meeting.