It is understandable that they ran out of creamer at the Coffee for the Cops held July 27. After all, it was standing room only at the Police Station Community Room. More importantly, though, they didn’t run out of straight talk.
Chief Allan Cantando lived up to his reputation as a straight shooter and we heard both supportive and critical remarks from the overflow crowd, including a chastisement for a service call 10 hours after the burglary happened and a call for more community policing from a former resident of the legendary Fort Apache area of the Bronx, New York.
To think, this event started off years back with a half dozen or so residents at local coffee shops. It’s grown in popularity but it’s also a sign of the times. Crime in Antioch has gone through the roof in virtually every measure. The police, too, are not immune, with three recent officer-related shootings.
Burglaries were a big part of the morning’s discussion, as they were up 64 percent. The chief also noted that priority calls were up 14 percent and priority-two calls up 10 percent, and that response time from call to visit by an officer had risen from eight minutes in 2010 to 10 minutes, 40 seconds today. That, of course, is when they can even give it priority to respond.
Chief Cantando said this was to be expected with the defeat of the parcel tax measure and a staff that is down 34 sworn officers and some 30 non-sworn support staff.
On a positive note, the chief applauded the new smartphone technology, TIPSOFT, where you can send anonymous tips by texting the crime and using the keyword Antioch. He also talked of the new alert system that will soon tell you of crimes in your neighborhood. A big fan of technology, the chief encouraged more to add to the 1,000 current local Facebook friends of the Antioch police for updates on local law enforcement.
Other good news was the addition of five officers funded 50 percent by a national grant of three years, and the adoption of three canines, one funded through $12K raised by local nonprofits.
The chief did not sugarcoat about the difficulty of operating with a bare-bones staff. At the same time, as one citizen aptly remarked, we can’t make excuses and must deal with the deck we have. The chief responded to a couple of complaints by saying that he wished he had heard when the incidents were fresh. The squeaky wheel gets heard.
The message I took away confirms what one officer said: this is the most accessible chief he had seen in the four he had worked under.
We need to support him and his men and women while at the same time critiquing and prodding when mistakes are made. In the meantime, as a city we have to come to grips with what to do about this shortage of manpower, and while that shortage exists we need take all precautions on our own accord. Neighborhood Watch and alarm systems are vital beginners.
A block from me, we had a door kicked in at 4 p.m. this past Thursday, the fourth burglary I know of within a block of me the past six months. Make no mistake, there’s a war going on.