The priority shift, along with the rejiggering of beats, helped the city reduce violent crime by 46 cases (5.3 percent) in 2011 over the previous year.
“I think just our successes in apprehending and prosecuting people that are responsible for violent crimes is phenomenal,” said Acting Captain Leonard Orman. “Some of these things we had started doing in 2010, but things take time to have an effect. I’m hoping that 2011 was the result of things that we started doing in 2010.”
But the changes also meant that more property crimes were reported.
Antioch’s sworn police officers, who have seen their ranks thinned from 126 to 94 over the past few years due to budget cuts, believe that what the department has done to keep residents safe was a sound choice.
According to recent statistics, the city encountered a 25.1-percent spike in property crimes such as theft, burglary and arson. One of the most dramatic spikes was in theft. Antioch was hit with 522 more cases of theft last year, a 49.8-percent increase. Burglaries were up 22.8 percent. The department also reported 19 more incidents of arson compared to 2010, a 51.4-percent rise.
Orman pinpointed two causes of the increase in property crime: lack of staffing, and lenient terms of parole. Most of those arrested for crimes such as theft and burglary are repeat offenders.
Some residents, such as Beverly Knight, believe the crime problem is even worse than what’s reported. “People don’t call the police because in their daily routine they see traffic violations, vandalism, beggars everywhere – the police do nothing,” Knight wrote in an e-mail to The Press. “These are the things that need to be addressed. When the bad guys see no enforcement of little things, they think they can do whatever they want.”
Antioch saw eight fewer homicides in 2011 than in 2010. Rapes were reduced by 11, robberies by 23 and aggravated assaults by four. Throughout 2011, Police Chief Allan Cantando announced at City Council meetings that the efforts of his officers were making a difference and that violent crime was declining.
Mayor Jim Davis commended the hard work done by Antioch officers, expressing hope that the city would soon be able to add cops back to the force. “We’re looking to see where we can start increasing staff back at the police department, which would be great news,” Davis said. “I’m impressed that the police department is able to do as much as they are. Obviously the theft numbers are not what we’d like to have, and that is indicative of the fact that we have less police officers, but that will change once we start increasing the officers.”
Police officers and public officials have sought public involvement to bolster the understaffed department. Participation and interest in neighborhood watch groups have increased as residents have accepted their role as the police’s eyes and ears when officers can’t be present.
Orman also identified ways residents can avoid becoming property-crime statistics, noting that people shouldn’t provide a prime access point for thieves – an open garage door –when away from home. He urged residents to be on the lookout for suspicious people in their neighborhood and report potential criminal activity to the police. And he recommended that all windows and doors be locked before residents leave for work.
To prevent vehicle burglary, said Orman, residents should remove expensive items such as laptops, cell phones and iPods before leaving their vehicle.
“They’re doing a heck of a good job in trying to keep the crime down,” City Councilwoman Mary Rocha said of the Antioch Police Department. “We are moving out of this little slump, but we still need to have help from the community.”