ANTIOCH -- This city's police staffing level is the same now as it was in 1995.
Police Chief Allan Cantando spelled out the harsh reality of the state of Antioch's 88-sworn officer police department during a presentation at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
The concern about public safety prompted each member of the City Council to say something must be done, insinuating that they would consider asking the community if it would support some kind of tax for police services.
The figures for the end of 2012 mirrored what Cantando presented during quarterly reports earlier in the year: Violent crime was up 30.6 percent from 2011 and total crime up 24.2 percent, including substantial increases in burglaries and aggravated assaults, while arrests were down 13.6 percent.
"I'm not satisfied with the level of policing that we're providing. I feel frustrated. I know officers feel frustrated that they are not able to provide the service that they want to," Cantando said. "We're all feeling it."
Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha added, "One of the things I don't think people realize is how much we've lost."
The city had 126 sworn officers before the economic downturn.
Cantando also laid out the cost to bring the department back to its old "status quo" of 126 sworn officers and a more desirable 144 sworn officers, and what positions they would fill. He estimated the cost for the 126 would be about $3.4 million and about $6.8 million for 144.
"We wanted to see the numbers to look at what do we need," Mayor Wade Harper said. "One of the things we're going to have to do is come before the community and figure out what the will of the people is. How are we going to pay for more officers and make us safer."
Added Rocha: "We can't take it anymore. It's got to come out of our pockets, there's no buts about it. (The city) doesn't have the money."
The cash-strapped city has an operating budget of about $34 million, with a modest revenue shortfall projected for the upcoming fiscal year despite some increases in property values and sales tax.
Councilman Gary Agopian pointed out how "brutal honest" the 1995 Antioch figures Cantando showed were, especially that the city had 30,000 fewer residents and about 35,000 fewer calls for service.
"I'm as conservative fiscally as they come. But I am convinced that Antioch, the central biggest home run it can hit, is staffing up its police department," he said.
Steve Huddleston, a 23-year resident and Neighborhood Watch block captain on Tompkins Way, put it bluntly.
"We need to get a measure on a ballot, because of the fact that crime is getting so bad," he said. "We're the eyes and ears of the city, and we need your help."
Several Neighborhood Watch members and concerned residents filled the council chambers Tuesday, sharing stories about houses being shot up, ransacking, problem houses and slow response times.
"This has got to stop," resident Shelley French said.
Antioch school district officials also spoke in support of the police department, urging the council to find a way to bring back school resource officers.
Concord, Fairfield and Richmond were similar-sized cities mentioned at the meeting. Those cities have 151, 119 and 185 sworn officers, respectively.
Public safety will be discussed at a community forum 6 p.m. Feb. 28 at Antioch High.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
What: Public safety community forum
When: 6 p.m. Feb. 28
Where: Antioch High's Beede
Auditorium, 700 W. 18th St.