Antioch's crime rate continues to climb while the numbers of arrests decrease.
During an update of the status of the Antioch Police Department this week, police Chief Allan Cantando told city leaders that all categories of crime are up for the first nine months of 2012.
Property crimes increased from 2,461 for the first nine months of 2011 to 3,579 from January to September of this year, or 45.4 percent, according to police statistics. Violent crimes have increased by 37.8 percent, primarily because of aggravated assaults.
Meanwhile, arrests are down by 17 percent in the first nine months of 2012, compared with the same period a year ago. It also takes officers an average of 11 minutes, 14 seconds to respond to priority calls in the first nine months of 2012 compared with 8 minutes in 2010, according to police statistics.
"The numbers are somewhat staggering, but we aren't the only ones dealing with this," Cantando said, noting that the economy and early release of state prisoners has contributed to the increase.
More people may be reporting property crimes online, which became available last year, as well, he said.
Still, Cantando said Antioch's lack of police staffing is the primary reason for its crime situation. The crime rate increase is likely to continue through the end of the year, he said.
"I think it's pretty apparent that there's a direct correlation between the staffing rate and the crime rate," said Tom Fuhrmann, president of the Antioch Police Officers Association.
The police department is down 40 sworn officers from its authorized strength of 126 officers, not including the 15 officers who may be on injury leave or military duty. The police staffing situation is a result of city budget cuts several years back as Antioch staved off bankruptcy, Mayor Jim Davis and Councilman Brian Kalinowski said.
Fuhrmann said there were 86 sworn officers when he started working with the Antioch department in 1989, back when the East Contra Costa city of near 104,000 was about half its present size.
The department also has no nonsworn community service officers to handle duties such as booking, fingerprinting, and holding people in jail.
But some help may soon be on the way.
Antioch is in the process of hiring for 14 sworn officer positions and up to six community service officers. Four officers are in the final stages of the background check process, Cantando said.
"We've started picking up some momentum," said Cantando, adding that the city's new human resources director Michelle Fitzer understands the department's needs and is working expeditiously to fill the staff positions.
Fuhrmann said Antioch's hiring efforts are encouraging.
"That is paramount. When we look at where we've been, there's no place to go but up," he said.
In addition to utilizing volunteers to pick up some slack, the police department has also benefitted from utilizing social media such as its Facebook page and its anonymous text-a-tip line to make arrests, Cantando said.
Following the presentation, City Council members said that both the department and elected leaders need to identify priorities and plan what an ideal organization would look like and, more importantly, how to fund it.
"I think we know what we need, but the question is where do we find the money to do it?" Councilwoman Mary Rocha said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
Here are the number of crimes for the first nine months in Antioch in 2010 and 2011 compared with 2012. Arson cases are not included in the total crime tally.
Type of Crime 2010 2011 2012
Homicide 7 4 5
Rape 23 18 24
Robbery 256 206 257
Aggravated Assault 393 341 498
Burglary 795 919 1277
Theft 845 900 1458
Auto Theft 646 642 844
Arson 33 36 32
Total Crime 2965 3030 3579
Total Arrests 3823 3443 2850
Source: Antioch Police Department