The City of Antioch is desperately in need of leadership that will help tackle a recent spike in violent crime within the city limits.
Over a two-week period, 16 people have been shot which has not only raised the fear factor of Antioch, but neighboring communities in Brentwood and Oakley. The recent spike in shootings now has all of Contra Costa County watching Antioch.
Unfortunately, Mayor Wade Harper has remained silent on the issue since his now famous April line that “things are getting better” just minutes after Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando reported crime had been up 2.8% in the first quarter of 2014.
Since April 4, I’ve counted 29 people shot with at least three dead—four if you include the Hardy Nix Jewelry store shooting. These are frightening numbers, however, the council needs not run away from them, but instead admit there is a problem and then attack it head on with everything they can.
Many questions are being asked but the community receives little to no response to questions such as:
- Where is our City Council?
- What is our City Council doing about crime?
- Why are they not doing anything to prevent crime?
- Does the City Council even care there is a crime crisis?
The silence has been so terrible, Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando came out with a message for the community—which highlighted the anger at the City Council for remaining silent.
According to Chief Cantando’s letter, during their investigation into all of these incidents in the Sycamore area, they have determined that many of them are gang and/or drug related while most of the time the victim or witnesses do not want to cooperate with police.
The telling stat which has been stated many times is that Antioch Police staffing is currently at 88 sworn officers with authority to hire up to 97 as the second largest population in the county. Unfortunately, when you compare it to other cities such as Concord, which is the most populous city, they currently have 148 sworn officers. Richmond, the third most populous city currently has 190 sworn officers.
I will not get into the Measure C fiasco on a starting line as many believe Antioch should be authorized for up to 140 officers instead of the current 97 authorized, but instead I will leave it with Antioch has some work to do in terms of hiring and finding resources.
The thing to remember is that arrests are up 11% and multiple proactive details having netted dozens of additional arrests not yet in the reported crime statistics which otherwise would never occur without a detail in Antioch’s crime ridden areas. Antioch Police have done a fabulous job with little resources in preventing a lot of crime but the numbers are spiking because there is so much crime.
I would not like to see what crime would actually be had police not been making arrests or holding proactive details, crime would be even worse off—for that, I say thank you to the police department.
I reached out to Mayor Harper Monday evening only to be told to revert back to Chief Cantando’s Facebook post about the crime. Upon a follow up, he said he would call me Tuesday. It’s now Friday morning and have not heard back.
According Susan Ameli, Mayor Harper responded to her email by sharing that a “Proactive Violent Crime Suppression Detail” is being formed—whatever that means. Others have shared a similar response about a Crime Detail.
Unfortunately, Antioch does not need a “suppression” of crime; it needs a complete abatement of crime. Nothing has formally been shared to the public about a Crime Suppression Detail.
Looking forward, Antioch is set to receive just under $1.3 million in additional revenue from the County based off a higher than expected assessed housing values. It would behoove the council to take a good portion of that money and give police the tools to succeed.
It would also go a long way to build up trust since the Measure C fiasco and the broken promises.
Mayor Harper ran on being a mayoral candidate who was going to be tough on crime. Unfortunately, his bark is louder than his bite. As a former cop, its mind boggling he is showing no urgency to resolve the problem and his silence is stunning.
Antioch needs a four point plan which essentially is the “Four E’s”:
- Engineer: Come up with a plan that creates an environment to succeed—this comes in the form of finding a way to change the culture and reputation of the city. This includes getting police the technology they need to be successful such as license plate readers, cell phones, computers, radio systems, to a formalized plan.
- Education: Begin a full blown outreach campaign to the community that highlights how citizens can assist the police department, highlight community programs for youths, and county programs to help with jobs. It also means working with homeowners/rentals to cut back vegetation, clean up neighborhoods, and create better lighting and line of site for officers. Take the neighborhood Watch Program and give those folks more tools. Highlight the benefits of working with the police instead of highlight the dangers of a “no snitch” policy on the street. Work on troubled neighborhoods to build a relationship on trust that police are there to help. Finally, with the City now collecting Measure C money through Sales Tax, a shop Antioch campaign needs to occur so police can accumulate more funding—it’s a simple as shopping at Lowes vs. Home Depot for sales tax revenue. People are leaving Antioch to shop because of a fear for safety which means they are losing valuable tax money.
- Enforcement: Antioch Police are doing a fabulous job with their limited resources. Unfortunately, there will come a time when burnout and fatigue begins as mid-summer approaches. The City should be making all efforts to bring in the California Highway Patrol, County Sheriff’s Office and other enforcement agencies to assist. For the County Sheriff, it can be as simple as when they go from West County to Oakley or Discovery Bay they be required not to use Highway 4 past Auto Center and instead travel through Sycamore/Mahogany through Antioch down E. 10th or E. 18th. That would add an extra vehicle multiple times per day as an extra set of eyes.
- Encouragement: As city leaders, the council must also become leading cheerleaders in the process by encouraging the community participation and a culture change. This starts with leadership while encouraging victims and witnesses to work with police. It also recognizes citizens for assisting police on a more frequent basis—publicly or privately.
In the end, it’s not entirely up to the Antioch City Council, City Staff, or certainly the mayor, instead citizens have to step up and take their community back as part of the process. The community does not need more talking point gibberish out of city hall, it needs action and results. Citizens should be packing city hall seeking a solution to crime from the people they elected to represent them–this is much more than complaining about crime, its time to resolve it.
Without a leader from City Hall, someone or some group is going to have to step up and take charge. Citizens have the power here because they can attend council meetings, speak on crime, picket, email, change the culture—it’s up to them, it can’t be all up to the council. The community has to understand that for all of the complaining, it also has a responsibility and take part in the process to create a culture change.
I would encourage Mayor Harper to remember that people would rather see a mayor present a plan, implement it and fail, as opposed to presenting no plan and remaining silent.
In the end, success is not determined by words or boots on the ground; it’s determined by good leadership which Antioch is certainly lacking at this time.
By Michael Burkholder