Home Antioch Antioch: Sycamore Area Residents Offer Solutions for Troubled Neighborhood

Antioch: Sycamore Area Residents Offer Solutions for Troubled Neighborhood

by ECT


In an effort to hear from the Sycamore Area community, the City of Antioch held an ad-hoc meeting to learn direct concerns and suggestions from stakeholders to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.

The meeting consisted of people from the City, Sycamore area neighborhood residents as well as other stakeholders from property owners and property managers, neighborhood watch, and outside residents–in total, about 20 people were in attendance.

The goal was to begin discussion of a 12-month plan in an a small setting before hosting a large scale meeting at a later date.

Karl Dietzel explained he was attending because the neighborhood has deteriorated for the past ten years from shootings, deaths, drugs and other problems.

“I am looking forward to the city finally taking steps because I feel like they abandoned the area and staying away whenever they can,” said Dietzel.

Another resident shared how she has no life after the sun goes down out of fear of what transpires in the neighborhood.

“It’s like I have no life after the sun goes down. In the summertime the sun is out until 9pm and I don’t go out after 7pm. I could never understand why I don’t see patrol cruising by which would deter some of the activity going on,” said the resident.

Mayor Wade Harper agreed with the assessment that the area is underserved by the city.

“This area is underserved and I do agree with that. Let me preference this by saying I am not up for election in November so this is not political,” said Harper. I believe as mayor I am in position to help people.”

He explained it’s going to need the community to help the city make things better.

“The community needs to feel empowered to get involved and I am tired about hearing about shootings in the Sycamore area. I get an email as soon as a shooting happens, believe me , whatever time it happens I know about the shootings, people going to the hospitals, people who died, I’ve talked to the families, been to the marches, I’ve been to some of the cleanups, I am tired of it and we need to do something about it and we are going to have to do something about it as a community,” said Harper.

The purpose of the meeting according to Harper was to allow the community to lead the change, not the city because he said bad goals happen to good people as he shared the city may think the top goal is one thing, but the residents in a neighborhood have another goal in mind they want accomplished first.

City Manager Steve Duran said the purpose of this meeting is to get things started and come up with a plan for a larger community meeting and see who emerges as community leaders.

“We want to see who has the time and wants to help with the outreach and take it to the next level,” said Duran.

Editors Note: Do to introductions in the very beginning of the meeting, when people spoke they did not provide their names. Some residents we identify as “resident”.

Resident explainedthere is a war going on in Sycamore and just last week her son was shot. She said people are afraid and even members of her church have said they are afraid to walk to church, walk the street.

“For financial reasons I have to be here. I can’t watch another one of my children be shot. Guess what, it wasn’t even dark, it was the middle of the day. We need to bring attention here, rally the people together. These people do not feel safe; they do not feel comfortable calling the police. As a matter of fact, these people are afraid of the police,” said the resident. “So when it comes down to it its really one of those things where something has to give. This is no longer something we need to talk about; we really need to get into action and solutions because at the end of the day there are more of us than more of them. If we all stand up together, we can push them out.”

Fred Hoskins shared the best and easiest solution is for people to get out and meet their neighbors and learn about who they are and what they are about.

“One of the most important things for a community and to promote is that most of these places are fourplex, I wonder how many people know everyone of their neighbors in a fourplex. Who they are, where they work and what kind of support they can give one another. Now we expand to another fourplex, let’s go out four more,” said Hoskins. “You can accomplish great tasks by getting to know one another and I think that is the biggest issue in the next 12 months, move on it, be quick to do it and get to know one another then you can get together and accomplish great things. “

Bill Cook, Crime Prevention Commissioner, explained that we can come in here and complain all we want but it’s not going to get any better.

“Somebody is going to have to step up. I get it, you are afraid, but staying in your house, closing your curtains and blinds and saying it’s not my problem is not working. And it’s just not this neighborhood, it’s all over,” said Cook.

Cook shared that two years ago, they had 125 block captains and now they have 450 block captains.

“People in this community are stepping up. We do not have enough police officers, we know that. The city doesn’t have any money, they can’t help us. We know that, but what we can do is start a neighborhood watch and be the eyes and ears for the police department,” said Cook.

Cook also encouraged folks to contact the police department whenever necessary or if something doesn’t seem right.

“Don’t ever think the police department doesn’t want you calling,” said Cook. “I’ve never heard them say too many people are calling. Call them and give them the information and let them decide how important it is. We need some of you guys to step up, personally I don’t like hearing about this neighborhood, I don’t like it so you guys need to help us help you. If you’re not going to call us, it’s not going to get better and that is a fact.”

A resident responded to Cook by stating there is a big problem with youth not liking cops and the big thing is “no snitching” or using scanners on phones to hear when police are going to show up.

Karl Dietzel shared he had a list of suggestions of how the City could help improve the Sycamore area. They include:

  1. Street lighting is too dark
  2. Need speed bumps on all streets so kids can play and criminals can run away
  3. Make streets 1-one streets to control traffic
  4. More police presence. I want to see more police
  5. Regulate the number of rentals in a single area (throughout Antioch)
  6. Setting up fencing systems in all apartment complexes
  7. Contra Loma Park – why do we have a tennis court, change it to basketball. Convert the park to things for people to do. Clean it up
  8. Private guards with guns—it should be an armed guard as a requirement throughout Antioch. Just like the City did with the card room
  9. Street sweeper needs to come twice a month
  10. Database created for homes that are owner lived in or rentals. We should be able to get ahold of homeowners if there is a problem.
  11. Water and PG&E should only be turned on if the owner goes down to City Hall.
  12. Police reports should point out statistics if it’s an owner, renter or visitor.
  13. Rental Inspection Program is on the books, why do we have it if we don’t use it?
  14. No special schools for special ed folks in the neighborhood—especially 5-10 kids
  15. No more Smoke & Dollar Stores in our area or in Antioch
  16. Empty houses that are boarded up with plywood should be painted.
  17. Code Enforcement needs to be staffed up.

Resident – wanted people to get involved. If you are a scaredy-cat nothing is going to change. People have to get involved and call the police and do not have to give their name.

Resident – asked if there any way for the community or city to hold the property management or homeowner responsible for problems? Says that no one is being held accountable for what is going on and would like that to change.

Resident – Wanted to know if Contra Costa County had a “no question asked” gun drop off program to help get guns off the street to reduce violence. Also wanted to know about programs between police department to get involved in volunteer hours so they can build up trust and relationships between the youth and police to help reduce the “I am not a snitch” problem.

Iris Archuleta responded to the resident by sharing the benefits of the Antioch Police Activities League and how children and officers bond and

Resident – I am sorry but we get a bad reputation down here. It’s not just the Sycamore area but it’s all over Antioch. Its Deer Valley area and it’s in every other city and just not Antioch. If you see a kid cussing or causing problems, talk to them.

Fred Hoskins discussed how communication was poor from both the Chamber of Commerce and the City as they have an upcoming event on Friday where its poorly advertised. He says if you want to be successful in advertising, the best way is face to face so we need to go door to door. He admits its difficult but if you have 50-neighborhood watch individuals, have each of them knock on 50-doors.

Organizing a Bigger Community Meeting:

Resident – one resident found out about this meeting an hour before the meeting. Says we all have to get the message out through grass roots efforts. Starting with face-to-face with neighbors and faith based organizations because it’s time to stop sitting in church but get active.

Resident – Put the blame on parents for not watching their kids and making sure they were inside when the sun goes down.

Resident – suggest holding a cleanup at the park and build it in with the neighborhood watch. Going door to door to get to know folks and let them know about a cleanup and work with the faith based community. Help build community support. Would love to see folks come from all over Antioch.

Resident – explained that if people see garbage in the street, pick it up if you can. It looks like no one cares about the neighborhood with all the trash.

Bill Cook explained that every month they have a monthly cleanup through the Police Department with 30-100 volunteers. Our police department can make that happen

Steve Duran is suggesting holding a community meeting early in the morning followed by a community cleanup. But also potentially involve other elected officials and county to also highlight city, county and state programs to assist residents in the Sycamore area. Duran also shared the need to ensure some activity occurs for National Night Out

Resident –One of the key things that we need to realize here, because I have relatives that live here, that it’s not our kids doing these crimes, its other kids coming in from other areas causing the problem. It’s going to take us to get out there and clean out the park and take out the junk so that people coming in know we are standing up for our community. Until we actually put things into action… when you knock on the doors, have someone out there cleaning up. They need to see you doing and then they will do—it’s like training your child, what they see, they then copy and will help clean up the neighborhood.

Fred Hoskins says he will buy the first 500-hot dogs and buns for an activity for the neighborhood of Sycamore for people to get to know each other and socialize. This will demonstrate that “we care”. We want to empower ourselves and enjoy ourselves and eliminate those nasty things.

Resident: Said all this sounded great but commitment is key and we can talk all we want but until we act it’s just talk.

Resident: Would like to see the police department work with security companies in the area to share information or share alerts so multiple responses can occur simultaneously. When there are shootings, let the security companies and police know. They can also help each other out

Karl Dietzel – for the next 12-months, I’d like to see the city focus on turning the lighting up and make it brighter.

Resident – I would like the city to focus on speed bumps and control traffic with fences to ensure 1-way traffic.

Mayor Wade Harper thanked the community for their participation in the night’s meeting and said the area has his attention.

“This area has my attention and we have some work to do. Hopefully we can divert some funding to this area,” said Harper. We have work to do, this is a marathon and not a sprint.”

Councilwoman Monica Wilson talked about commitment and showing up.

“I want to piggyback on what the gentlemen said earlier about commitment. We have a neighborhood watch meeting on June 11 and how many are committing to come, so those committing to come back bring 5-people with you. This room should be packed. Say hey, I am empowered to do something in my community and feel safe,” said Wilson. “That meeting on the 11th should be packed. I really want to see this community come to life. This is a beautiful community, it shouldn’t be Antioch and Sycamore, it should be Antioch has a whole.”

After the meeting, we spoke briefly with City Manager Steve Duran on what transpired this evening.

Duran shared that he was happy with the results because good ideas were shared.

“I wasn’t surprised by the problems, but there were a few good ideas out of the meeting. It was good. The commitment to neighborhood watch was real positive,” said Duran. “We are really looking for neighborhood leaders to drive this eventually because there are a lot of neighborhoods in Antioch. The city cannot be at every neighborhood meeting so we really want to build up and empower the people here to self-lead and have their own leadership.”

He also stated his excitement in beginning work on solving a major problem within the city.

“This kind of enthusiasm, I am confident leaders will emerge and that is exciting because when leaders emerge from the community, the community followers them and that is when things get better because police and code enforcement can only do so much,” said Duran. “It becomes an upward spiral versus a downward spiral.”

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Reginald Jamal Brown May 29, 2014 - 10:01 am

Mayor Wade Harper said ” Let me preference this by saying I am not up for election in November so this is not political,”

Geez, way to cover your ass Harper. However, wasn’t it your job to get this ridiculously out of control crime as a priority on your plate?

Dale May 29, 2014 - 11:02 am

What about the Landlords, their are a few that own the majority of the property in this area. Are the held accountable for anything????

Marty Fernandez Jun 1, 2014 - 11:36 am

We want to hold them accountable by passing the Landlord Rental Fee in November. They have to pay for the services renters in general use more of that any other members of the community. It will be a highly financed campaign to vote no because the Apartment Owners Association is committed to pay for it. We want a yes vote to have the landlords pay their fair share.

karl dietzel May 29, 2014 - 1:09 pm

well, again, one of many meetings.
unfortunately not much about crime prevention measures, in the end it was suggested to have a clean up “party” at the contra loma park, with following barbecue. one resident is willing to pay for the first 500 hot dogs. two neighbor hood watch/ crime commissioners suggested if people don’t go and built up neighbor hood crime watch groups, everything would be on their shoulders.
in all reality..no suggestion from the mayor/ wilson and duran.

but hey…this was the first crime prevention meeting for the sycamore area.

here is a copy/ paste of my notes about suggestions how to deter crime. will everything work, i don’t think so, but some ideas.

copy/ paste

Crime prevention meeting
May 28, 2014
Time 6-8 pm

1204 sycamore dr., clubhouse


Mayor harper
Council woman monika Wilson
City manager steve duran
Police chief allen cantando

This area is abandoned by the city

City officials need to come done here and walk the area, and not just when it is election time

Street lighting to dark

Speed bumps

One way streets/ could be concrete flower pots/ if they fail, can be removed easy

Police presence / talk to people, be known

To many rentals in a small area. We need limits of number of rentals

Fencing for apartments
Best thing happens in that area was the fence on spanos

Talked to some apartments, the employees are either to new, they don’t know how it was before their fence systems, or one manager is simply afraid to be seen with officials, or police.

Converting the contra loma park from tennis into basket ball. Kids need to have a place to go

Private armed guards for duplexes/ complexes

Street sweeper at least 2 time a month

Establish list/ data base which house etc is owned, which is rented out. Built a data base of owners, property management, so the owners can be identified, contacted in case of trash etc. so they can be fined and held responsible.

Police reports should contain if the house/ location is rented out, the people the police is going to are renters in that location or owners, or from somewhere else

(rental inspection program)

No more schools or special ed groups in residential neighborhoods

No more new smoke shops/ dollar stores etc

Empty house and boarded up houses with plywood need to be painted the color of the house

Code enforcement for all blight issues

Water and electricity can only be turned on by owner at city hall.

Holding rentals responsible for their properties, notify owner about the number of issues, ones a year.

EastCountyToday May 29, 2014 - 2:34 pm


We would tend to agree with you. Ultimately there was no real solution or action items put in place. Without action items, it appears what was talked about is on hold until June 11. It appeared no urgency to move to improve the lighting which is an easy step 1.

karl dietzel May 29, 2014 - 2:43 pm

the message was loud and clear: there is no money.

Reginald Jamal Brown May 29, 2014 - 3:28 pm

No real solutions or action items is the same routine we get from Harper and the rest of the clowns. It’s like a magic show.

“Come back next time for more fun, magic, smoke and mirrors folks”

Marty Fernandez May 30, 2014 - 6:04 pm

Not only is the city out of money but will not have any for a good long time. Yesterday the new figure on our unfunded liabilities, pension and medical, came out at 106 million dollars. On top of that the city must, beginning next year, include this figure in their budget. So, we will never ever have a balanced budget again.

Clean up Antioch May 29, 2014 - 2:29 pm

This area has been rentals for years. Why does this group of people require so much attention. Contra Loma is already thugged filled in the summer, let’s not make it worse. Do we need to turn everyone of our quiet areas into thug handouts. It’s not about places to play, it’s lack of parenting skills. There are plenty of parks & schools to play at. What you don’t see much of is parent participation.

Reginald Jamal Brown May 29, 2014 - 3:25 pm

Very good points. The questions then would be, how can we get parents to become better parents? I don’t think there is a solution to that. The only way to clean up crime is to get rid of the thugs by putting them in prison for some crime or better yet, cut off the government assistance their losers parents are taking for granted.

Julio May 29, 2014 - 4:21 pm

Mr Harper’s comment about this “not being political” has become his new mantra. He did it at council also. He seems to think saying this somehow absolves him of something. It doesn’t do anything but call attention to how uneasy and unqualified he is to be involved in this.

The city was sold a bill of goods on these new lights. They were supposed to be better. They do not illuminate a couple of square feet and make this whole city a very dangerous place to be at night. That is part of the reason people won’t go out at night. They even got the old police chief to lie about how good they were at council to keep all of us happy. I believe it was Mr Davis’ council.

RJB, we do need to cut off the assistance and make people work for anything and everything they get just like the rest of us. We could start paying the thugs like Richmond does. They get $1,000 a month to promise not to use a gun or get in trouble.

For why May 29, 2014 - 4:47 pm

Bulldozer is the only fix

Linda Thompson May 31, 2014 - 7:00 am

I agree with Dale. Where are the landlords??? Why are they not accountable for their properties that they rent and why are they not helping make the area safe.

Marty Fernandez May 31, 2014 - 5:04 pm

Dale, that is exactly why the landlord rental fee of $250 is going to be on the November ballot. It is time, past time the landlord and apartment owners share in the cost of doing business in Antioch. Over 1/3 of the housing in Antioch is rentals. Oh, they are planning a big campaign to defeat it so stay on your toes.

Chuck May 31, 2014 - 7:27 pm

Hit the drug and crime infested homes hard by condemning them along with huge fines for landlords when drug and criminal activity are produced from fixed address.

yani Jun 1, 2014 - 9:53 pm

I agree 100% we have one to many slum lords they dont care it take 9min.for antioch police to come by that time shooters are gone we have shooting here in sycamore 9 days in a row

Chuck Jun 2, 2014 - 6:55 pm

Marty, I would vote yes under the current circumstances in Antioch. I would also pass that cost to the renter or government (section 8). Maybe the funds generated would assist the Police to bring crime down further.

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