ANTIOCH -- Lower crime rates. More police hires.

It's a message that Antioch police Chief Allan Cantando hopes to repeat a lot more in the upcoming months.

Antioch continues to have a lower crime rate than at the same time last year. The city's combined violent and property crimes fell from 4,363 in the first nine months of 2012 to 3,904 over the same period this year, a decrease of 10.5 percent, according to police statistics released this week.

Although homicides have nearly doubled -- there were nine in the first nine months of 2013 -- violent crimes decreased from 784 to 744, a drop of more than 5 percent.

On the property crime side, the once-spiking category of burglaries, is down 19.3 percent thus far in 2013.

Antioch police officer Allan Cantando addresses the media Dec. 2, 2010.
Antioch police officer Allan Cantando addresses the media Dec. 2, 2010. (Sherry LaVars/Staff file)

The numbers are encouraging, especially given the department's low staffing levels, Cantando told the City Council this week.

"These are great numbers considering our staffing, but we are on the upswing and will be bringing on more officers in the very near future," Cantando said.

Antioch is authorized for 102 sworn officers, but is currently sitting at 84, down a bit because of some recent retirements, Cantando said.

However, when Antioch voters approved Measure C earlier this month, a half-cent sales tax hike, Cantando says the city's website "blew up" with applications.

Antioch now has 13 veteran officers going through the hiring process, with one receiving a conditional offer and two entry level candidates in the process, officials said. The city is accepting applications for veteran sworn officers, academy students and dispatchers. Dozens are attending the department's written and physical agility tests, including 400 being invited to one in mid-December.

"These are huge numbers, but its going to take huge numbers to get our staff to where it needs to be," Cantando said.

Mayor Wade Harper urged the chief to continue to show the community plans to bring on more officers.

Pointing out that the 2013 statistics are just a "short snapshot" and that crime is cyclical, Cantando showed Antioch has been able to solve almost 79 percent of its homicide cases from 2006 to 2012 despite its scant staffing, the second highest percentage in the Bay Area. The chief attributed it to the work officers are doing, along with residents getting involved and letting police know when they witness something.

"Things are being solved," Councilman Tony Tiscareno said. "We need to promote this more. It's always been the assumption that things aren't getting done and we're high on crime, but there are a lot of positive things out here, and this is one."

One notable change from earlier this year is that the number of arrests is up slightly, as the number of adult arrests has gone up while juvenile arrests are down. Average police response time for top priority calls also dropped from 11 minutes, 4 seconds to 10 minutes, 37 seconds.

At the request of Councilwoman Monica Wilson, Cantando showed how Antioch's staffing and amount of property crime and violent crime compares with other East Bay cities of similar size.

"Telling you about what our crime numbers are doesn't really mean a whole lot unless we're looking at what similar cities with similar populations are doing," he said.

"I appreciate the comparison because it points out with reality of where we are," Councilman Gary Agopian said.

The per-capita crime rates in Antioch are "simply unacceptable" and prove the need for Measure C for staffing, he said.

"I know we're going to go to work on that," he said.

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

Antioch crime statistics
Here are Antioch's crime statistics for the first nine months of 2013 compared with the same time period in 2012.
Type of crime 2012 2013 Percentage change
Homicide 5 9 80%
Rape 24 16 -33.3%
Robbery 257 270 5.1%
Aggravated Assault 498 449 -9.8%
Burglary 1,277 1,031 -19.3%
Theft 1,458 1,376 -5.6%
Auto Theft 844 753 -10.8%
Total Crime 4363 3904 -10.5%
Adult Arrests 2,171 2,304 6.1%
Juvenile Arrests 679 566 -16.6%
Total Arrests 2,850 2,870 .7%
Source: Antioch Police Department

Where Antioch Stands
Here is a look at Antioch's number of authorized sworn officers, and amount of violent crimes and property crimes in 2012 as compared with similar-sized cities in the East Bay.
City Population Authorized Sworn Officers Property crime per capita Violent crime per capita
Hayward 147,424 191 32.50 4.16
Concord 125,205 149 33.40 3.21
Vallejo 117,912 110 49.56 7.45
Fairfield 107,110 119 30.97 4.24
Richmond 106,357 196 47.18 10.93
Antioch 105,009 102 45.30 10.17
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation