ANTIOCH -- Address truancy. Find constructive activities for youngsters. Hold renters and owners of rental properties accountable.

And get more police officers on the streets.

Those were some of the more common themes shared by the two dozen who spoke during Thursday night's Community Crime Prevention Forum at Antioch High's Beede Auditorium.

The forum, called by Mayor Wade Harper to hear solutions from residents to the city's surge in crime, drew about 100 people.

Speakers emphasized that city leaders act quickly in improving public safety.

The two-hour meeting started with brief presentations by police Chief Allan Cantando about police staffing levels and where he would add officers, and City Manager Jim Jakel about the city budget.

Antioch has 88 sworn officers, though about a dozen of those are off because of job injury or medical reasons -- the same level as 1995 and a far cry from the 126 it had before the recession.

The City Council agreed this week to start studying data about possible tax options to pay for more officers.

Antioch's staffing overall is down from 400 employees five years ago to 240, as the city's revenue plummeted, Jakel said. The city is starting to "come off the bottom," and projections show the sales tax is recovering while home prices are going up, he said.

Antioch Unified board President Joy Motts and Superintendent Donald Gill spoke on what the schools are doing to address safety and keep students engaged in the classroom.


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Bruce Smargiasso, who oversees the Section 8 voucher program for the Contra Costa Housing Authority, also gave a quick update.

The housing authority now issues 6,408 Section 8 vouchers, with 1,977 of those being used in Antioch -- the most in the county. There are 398 Section 8 vouchers used in Brentwood and 297 in Oakley, he said.

The authority recently hired a fraud investigator and has made some progress in addressing those who abuse the system, Smargiasso said. The agency also plans to hold more workshops to answer questions and clear up misconceptions about the program, he said.

Most who spoke Thursday shared their dissatisfactions to city officials, but a few offered suggestions.

Daniel Loey presented a typed initiative for an ongoing, $250 per year tax on all nonowner occupied properties dedicated to funding cops.

The tax would raise almost $2.9 million annually, based on his records search findings that 11,569 of the 33,079 properties in Antioch are rentals, he said.

The high number of rental is a "correlation to the increase in crime," Loey said.

"It's time to get the lead out. I know it takes time, but let's keep it simple and get it done." he said.

Mary Jane Carsten said she owns a rental in Antioch, but the $250 would be "money well-spent." She also said she would like to see code enforcement brought back to its former staffing level.

Eileen Batthany said she would extend the landlord tax idea to a $200 charge for all properties, saying it would be worth it given that she pays $360 for ADT Security right now.

"You've given us a lot to chew on," Harper said, saying the participation shows that Antioch is a "self-help community."

Added Councilman Gary Agopian: "The time for talk is over. The time for action has begun."

The council will take ideas collected from Thursday's meeting into consideration as it sets its priorities during a March 28 planning workshop.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

TO HELP
Residents who have suggestions on combating crime in Antioch can contact Michelle Fitzer at 925-779-7021 or Mfitzer@ci.antioch.ca.us