Harper invites the public to join him, members of the City Council, police department, school district and members of the local faith community at a crime prevention forum on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. in Antioch High School’s Beede Auditorium.
“In the past year, crime has risen to unacceptable levels,” Harper said. “With a crime rate increase of about 45 percent over the previous year, the Antioch city councilmembers and I are firmly committed to addressing the crime problem, which is the most pressing issue facing the city of Antioch today.”
Harper said ideas gathered at the meeting will be used during a strategic planning secession next month.
Harper announced the meeting after a presentation of updated crime statistics by Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando during the City Council meeting of Feb. 12.
During that presentation, Cantando announced that violent crime in 2012 had increased 30 percent and property crime 22 percent over the previous year. Several members of the public packed the chambers that night to voice their displeasure over crime and blight in the community.
Crime Prevention Commissioner Bill Cook said at the meeting that he welcomes the forum, but hopes the momentum built at the council meeting to find solutions to crime in Antioch can carry over to the forum.
Former Mayor Jim Davis held a similar event in March of last year, but only 45 to 50 members of the public showed up, Cook said: “There was a lot of conversation, but what you get is a lot of people that want to talk about it – but when it comes time to do it, they don’t show up.”
City Councilmember Mary Rocha said she hopes people understand that the community needs to band together to find a way to increase police staffing levels. The city currently employs the same number of sworn officers it employed in 1995, when Antioch had 30,000 fewer residents and about 35,000 fewer calls for service.
“I hope people understand that we cannot keep our police in harm’s way because we don’t have enough police to back them up,” Rocha said. “We need to come up with a solution to pay for the service of protection.”
Cook believes the solution to Antioch’s crime problem is linked to the passage of a tax the council alluded to in its previous meeting. According to Cook, it’s time for councilmembers to tell the community how they plan to address crime in the city.
“What I’m hoping this is going to do is get the mayor and City Council to tell us what their plan is,” Cook said. “We need to stop kicking the can down the road here. It’s getting to the point where if we don’t do something, we’re going to be in trouble.”
Antioch resident April Phillips who felt the city is using the forum to generate public support for a future tax initiative, said the only good that can come out of the forum is for Antioch residents to voice their displeasure with the current state of the community: “These meetings have been used for a few years now to open dialogue. Other than that, I feel it’s a waste of time, money and gives people false hopes.”
Harper feels otherwise: “I truly believe that the best ideas and solutions to our problems will come from our community.”