On Monday, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe held a press conference announcing initiatives that he hopes will make the community safer while holding property owners and business responsible for contributing to crime.
In total, he announced four items which include:
- Mayors City Apprenticeship Program
- County Probation Partnership – with Office at Sycamore Square
- Property Owners Must Do Their Part to Keep Communities Safe
- Overtime for Antioch Police to be Considered
Here is the recap:
“I am exceptionally proud to be mayor of Antioch and I am exceptionally proud to work with an outstanding group of individuals on our city council,” said Thorpe.
He was critical of those who sit at home and criticize.
“There will be people who will try and divide us who have nothing better to do. Let me tell you, this council is strong. We are working on behalf of the people. And for those who sit at home behind their keyboards having nothing great to say, you are not going to divide this council, we are united and working on behalf of the people and all that trash talk you have you can take it out the window,” said Thorpe.
He continued by saying they were there Monday to send a clear message to the community.
“Time is up,” stated Thorpe. “We are no longer standing by hoping things get better at places like Sycamore Square, Bonfare Market, Romi’s Liquor and Food and other locations that have been troubled spots for over 30-40 years. This isn’t new.”
He took credit for creating a tax measure to increase the police officers in the city and building new youth programs and increase Antioch’s overall quality of life.
“We stand here in Sycamore Square, an area that has been overrun with drug dealing and other illicit activities. Like many of you, I am not unfamiliar with the Sycamore community. Not only have I knocked on doors for my own campaign, I have knocked on doors on behalf of Monica Wilson, our current Vice Mayor, former councilmember Joy Motts and participated in outreach activities.”
He called the area filled with hard working people and strong families and an abundance of young people looking for young people. He stated it was an area where Pittsburgh Steeler Najee Harris was raised, New York Jets running back Isaiah Dunn was raised in Sycamore. He shared that Antioch Unified School Board Trustee and City Clerk Ellie Householder was raised in Sycamore along with the Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks.
“Yet, like when we become tolerant of barking dogs we become tolerant of illicit activities in the area and have allowed that to define the narrative of those beautiful cities within our community,” said Thorpe.
He also thanked Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker for bringing this problem up and bringing it to his full attention who then spoke next.
He closed the roughly 30-minute press conference with the following statement:
“There will be folks that criticize our plan. That is fine. I would rather be criticized than sit behind a keyboard blogging in my underwear doing nothing,” said Thorpe. “We are the ones doing the work. We are the ones who are out here and I want to thank everyone who joined us in those efforts.”
Mayors City Apprenticeship Program
This will be a paid program that will hire minors and young adults that are involved in illicit activities. Called the program citywide but the focus will be in the Sycamore Corridor.
“If you can show up here at 8:00 am and sell dope, you can show up to city hall, to public works, you can show up anywhere in this city to earn a living the right way. We are more than willing to train you and more than happy to provide you with the opportunities you need but you wont be doing this anymore in my city. Its not going to happen,” said Thorpe.
Thorpe said Tasha Johnson, Youth Services Network Manager for city of Antioch, will be growing this program and will accept people without barriers regardless of criminal record or obstacles.
“Let me send another message to city hall and our staff there. Stay out of Tasha Johnson’s way. We need her to get the job done and get these young people hired. I don’t care about the rules, we need them hired and I want them hired as soon as possible,” said Thorpe. “So stay out of her way.”
County Probation Partnership – with Office at Sycamore Square
Thorpe announced that the Chief Probation Officer has agreed to match up to 50% of funding for program for resources and services to justice involved youth. This is aimed to provide wrap-around services for participants.
Ed Randell, Contra Costa County Probation, called this a great opportunity for the city of Antioch and will work to uplift the community.
“We really have a chance to uplift the young folks, remove barriers and get people employed,” stated Randell. “
Thorpe stated the owners of the plaza have agreed to allow county probation work from Sycamore Square and he is committed to that.
Property Owners Must Do Their Part to Keep Communities Safe
Thorpe discussed adding cameras, more lighting, enforcing parking limits or adding security is just some steps property owners could take to assist in keeping the neighborhood safe.
He stated that the owners have agreed to “some things” that will help secure Sycamore Square but it’s a start.
“Today, I am officially putting private property and business owners, where illicit activities is common place on notice. If you are uncooperative, not proactive in abating illegal drug activity or storefront owners are serving as a safe haven for drug dealers to bypass the loitering and trespassing laws, the city will declare you a public nuisance under the California Public Safety Code under Section 11570-11587,” said Thorpe. “If that happens, we will then use the full force of the city attorney’s office to then condemn your property and eminent domain it. Then this property will look like the property across the street, an empty lot. I am promising you that. We are not playing around with these games anymore. Its over and done. We have to keep these streets safe and the quality of life above anything else.”
Thorpe said if property owners are taking their duty seriously the city would work with them but if one is not they would use every available tool to make them comply with obligations as a property owner.
Over Time for Antioch Police to be Considered
Thorpe warned property owners that the Antioch Police Department is not private security and property owners have the burden to keep their property security. He will work with the police chief to work on possible overtime for troubled areas so they can assist property owners.
Captain Tony Morefield reiterated the Antioch Police Department has been in the neighborhood and will continue to serve the neighborhood by patrolling the streets and was there to stand with the community and will continue to be there for the community.
Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walkers Comments
“July 15 at 11:39 am, I sent an email to the city manager, the assistant city manager, the police chief and city manager regarding proactive conversations regarding issues in this area. To date, that email has gone unanswered,” stated Torres-Walker. “Since 1995, we have had seven mayors, two of which were black men and who served on previous councils, it took elected somebody who was impacted by violence and have lived in struggling communities to get some attention to these communities to date.”
Walker said she knocked on doors and talked to people who have not been heard for 30-years.
“We have heard about Measure W this morning and that measure is still delivering today and it should continue to do what it was meant to do. Youth programs increase the quality of life in our communities and scale up our police department to meet the current capacity,” said Torres-Walker who said she knew how hard it was to tell people to put down their guns and stop participating in the underground economy if they were not ready to offer real options and opportunities. “Its one thing to tell someone to make a choice and not provide them with options. I also know how long that road is… it could take a while to change a culture in a community.”
She called on the need for neighborhood council, a need for a human rights and racial equity commission, and a strong civilian police oversight body.
“I don’t care where you are from. Whether it be San Francisco, Oakley Richmond, Vallejo, Stockton, Etc., if you live in Antioch, this is your home now. Just like you will stand in the gap and defend your home of origin, it is time to make it right now, make it right now where you lay your head down and that is Antioch, we all have a responsibility to Antioch,” said Torres-Walker. “If you are one of those people just passing through, we welcome you to the city of Antioch. But if your intentions are not good and its meant to create harm. You can keep it moving, because this is no longer an option for you, this is no longer and opportunity for you. This is now a city that says opportunity exists here, if that is what you want, then we are ready to roll up our sleeves and work with you.”