All categories of Antioch crime are up for the first six months of 2012 compared with the same period last year, while the number of arrests are down, the city's police chief told the City Council this week.
Property crimes increased from 1,556 for the first six months of 2011 to 2,487 from January to June of this year, according to police statistics. Violent crimes have increased by 45.6 percent, due primarily to aggravated assaults.
"There is a correlation between our staffing rates being down and our crime rates," said Chief Allan Cantando, adding that he saw these numbers coming.
The police department is down 34 sworn officers from its authorized strength of 126 officers, not including the dozen orso officers that may be on industry or injury leave, or military duty. The department also has no non-sworn community service officers to handle duties such as booking, fingerprinting, holding people in jail and some property crime investigations.
"It affects our ability to combat that crime and makes us reactive rather than proactive," Cantando said.
Other cities in California, including Vallejo and San Jose, are also seeing an increase in crime because of dwindling police staffs, he said.
The number of arrests has dropped from an average of 432 per month in 2010 to 328.3 thus far this year, which Cantando attributes directly to fewer cops on the street. Meanwhile, the number of calls for services, particularly for serious offenses, and response times to top priority calls increased.
The statistics were not a shock to council members or residents at Tuesday's meeting.
"It's becoming a big problem. I'm hearing from a lot of people in the community, including my friends, that are frustrated," said councilwoman Mary Rocha, adding she had a bike stolen from her garage recently.
"Police are having to concentrate all their attention on the (serious) criminals, and the petty theft is getting untouched."
Bill Cook, a member of the city's Crime Prevention Commission, said he was surprised the numbers weren't higher. He points out that Richmond, a similar-sized city to Antioch, has about 100 more sworn officers.
"You can't plug the dike with your five fingers if there's 20 holes," he said. "There's only so much the police can do."
Still, Cook said he finds there a lot of people in the community, particularly at Neighborhood Watch meetings, that are unaware of Antioch's police staffing shortage.
Other factors such as the early release of state prisoners and their subsequent return to local communities has made for a "perfect storm," Cantando said.
Council members discussed the affect the prisoner release was having on crime, while some mentioned that the crime uptick is in part because city voters did not approve a half-cent sales tax measure in 2010. Measure P would have put an additional $3 to $4 million toward the city's General Fund, which is primarily spent on public safety.
Councilman Brian Kalinowski proposed that city staff work hard to hire back some community service officer positions quickly, which would help put officers back on the streets and investigating crimes.
"We need to move on it. (The current situation) is unacceptable," he said.
Cantando added that he's encouraged that there has been an increase in the city's Neighborhood Watch program and volunteers helping the department.
Antioch is also looking to hire back five officers to fill positions lost through attrition and five more with federal grant money it received last month.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
Here are the average number of crimes per month for Antioch in 2010 and 2011 compared to the number for the first six months of 2012.
Type of Crime 2010 2011 2012
Homicide 1.1 .4 .7
Rape 2.7 1.8 2.7
Robbery 26.1 24.2 29.2
Aggravated Assault 42.2 41.8 53.7
Burglary 90.6 111.3 148.2
Theft 87.4 130.9 170.5
Auto Theft 80 80.6 95.8
Arson 3.1 4.7 2.8
Total Crime 330.1 391 500.8
Source: Antioch Police Department
If you go
What: "Coffee With the Cops"
When: 9 a.m. Saturday
Where: Antioch Police Station Community Room, 300 L St.
Info: Visit the Antioch Police Facebook page at www.facebook.com/antiochpolice