ANTIOCH -- Despite police statistics showing that violent crime is down in 2014 and shootings are on par with last year, residential frustrations over public safety and gunplay continue to mount.
The Antioch City Council received a midyear report from its police department, which included a straightforward update on the number of firearm-related assaults and shootings on people during the first few months of this year.
As of July 21, there were 50 shootings in Antioch in 2014, with four homicides. During the same time frame the year before, Antioch had 51 shootings with seven homicides, Antioch police Capt. Leonard Orman said.
Richmond, by comparison, has had 44 shootings with seven homicides in 2014. Antioch has a population of 106,455, while Richmond's is 106,138.
"As you can see, we haven't had quite the surge in violence that is being perceived," Orman said. "That is not to say we're necessarily happy with these numbers."
Many of the shootings are related to drugs or gangs, with victims and witnesses who are uncooperative, police said.
Despite supporting the job officers are doing given their short staffing, a handful of residents who spoke Tuesday remained skeptical of city leaders. Many of the scores of others at the meeting who did not speak said they hear gunshots seemingly every day.
"I've lived in this town a long time, and it's spiraling down to a place I don't want to be anymore," Roberta Haynes told the council.
"It's not safe in places in Antioch, it's not just Sycamore," she said. "It's frightening. You have to do something before something gets so bad here, you can't fix it."
Local business owner Ken Turnage questioned the statistics at the meeting, showing bullet casings found lodged in stucco from a pair of incidents to illustrate that not all shootings and incidents are being counted or brought forward to the city.
The continued gunfire will eventually hurt innocent people, he said.
"The people who have chosen that lifestyle are horrible shots who keep missing each other. It's the people who are riding their bicycle down the street who are going to be the ones who get hit. That child that's riding the bicycle is not the one who chose that lifestyle," Turnage said.
Mayor Wade Harper pointed out that the city authorized the department to spend overtime "to get the job done" and do weekly crime suppression details. That decision came after a stretch of 11 shootings in as many days in late June and early July.
"We have to come together as a community and not cast blame on anyone," Harper said. "Crime's got to stop. There's got to be peace in the streets. Let's not give up. Let's not stop working on behalf of our city."
In the short term, police will also redirect some officers to boost narcotics enforcement and increase foot patrols during regular shifts, Orman said. The department has also formalized partnerships with the CHP, county sheriff's office, probation and FBI, he said.
William Dee, president of the Antioch police officers union, said the spike in shootings and frequency is more than he's seen in his 19-year career.
Though in support of the short-term plan, Dee urged city leaders to add back staffing to have a long-term effect on reducing violent crime, as his colleagues are dealing with fatigue and injuries and often work 12- to 16-hour days.
The snapshot of Antioch's crime statistics for the first six months of 2014 shows that crime overall is down slightly, while violent crime is down 15.7 percent. The total number of arrests is up 6.8 percent.
A lot of residents are frustrated and scared, but want to know how they can help, said Bill Cook, a crime prevention commissioner.
Continued residential involvement with Neighborhood Watch and giving police information of suspicious activity has been a big help, Orman said.
Antioch Police will hold an informal "Coffee with the Cops" meeting to discuss crime statistics and public safety issues 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Antioch Community Center, 4703 Lone Tree Way. Victory Outreach Antioch will hold an anti-violence march 9 a.m. Saturday from City Park down 10th Street to its church. The march will be followed by a community rally.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
Here are Antioch's crime statistics for the first six months of 2014 as compared with the same time period in 2013.
Type of crime 2013 2014
Homicide 7 3
Rape 6 30*
Robbery 177 148
Aggravated assault 307 238
Burglary 721 701
Theft 892 921
Auto theft 458 509
Total crime 2,568 2,550
Adult arrests 1494 1678
Juvenile arrests 405 350
Total Arrests 1899 2028
*The FBI changed its definition of rape in 2014.
Source: Antioch Police Department