Antioch to hire security for downtown city properties

Antioch to hire security for downtown city properties

In response to downtown merchants’ complaints about crime, the city of Antioch will hire private security to patrol its public parking lots and other assets.

The City Council unanimously approved the $150,000 expenditure this week for this and the next fiscal year, with the money coming from the general fund. Spearhead Protection was awarded the contract.

Acting City Manager Kwame Reed told the council that a small group of business owners began meeting with city staff in 2022 after experiencing criminal activities in or near downtown city parking lots. Several businesses agreed to hire security but the group also asked the city to hire officers to patrol the downtown city assets.

Councilman Mike Barbanica was present at those meetings and said it all came about following a “horrific crime” that happened in a downtown city parking lot.

“I’m not going to go into the details of it out of respect for the victim of that crime,” he said. “But that sold me on this and … how can we ask residents to come down and frequent our downtown area when they don’t feel safe?”

Though Barbanica didn’t mention any specifics, one man was shot multiple times and killed while two others were wounded when gunfire erupted in the early morning hours at an after-hours party near H Street downtown on July 15, 2022, and another man was fatally shot nearby on Dec. 16, 2023, near West I Street and Waldie Plaza.

Resident Melissa Case said she approved of the expenditure, noting residents prefer to go to activities in downtown Brentwood or Pittsburg despite Antioch’s “great downtown location.”

“It would be nice if it was safer – that’s what I hear from my neighbors and my community,” she said. “My thing, though, is why aren’t we using our own police force? Why don’t we hire more police?”

Half of Antioch’s police force was put on leave or given light duty in the last year or so following an FBI/District Attorney investigation and another probe that revealed officers implicated in racist or homophobic texts. The investigation is ongoing.

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Resident Andrew Becker, who used to manage a private security firm, said he wanted to see a breakdown of how the security officers would interact with community members.

“Why are we hiring a security company to move around the unhoused when we haven’t built a shelter?” he asked. “Where are they going to go? Where is anyone going to go? And let’s not fool ourselves. The majority of the petty crime out there is transient activity. Somebody’s sitting in a parking lot smoking weed. That’s because they have nowhere else to go.”

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock asked what the security guards’ duties would be.

“Are they carrying guns, are they calling the police when something’s going on?” she asked, noting she was not advocating for weapons.

Reed said guards will not be armed as the council did not ask for that. Rather, they will patrol nine parking areas from 5 to midnight each night.

“They will be reporting they’re basically going to be additional eyes in the community when something arises and hopefully they’ll be there to deter,” he said. “It’s an activity that happens when people are walking from a restaurant or anything like that to provide extra eyes of security within the downtown during those wee hours of the night when businesses are closing.”

Councilwoman Tamish Torres-Walker and Ogorchock both suggested other city parking lots could use security.

Before the vote, Reed explained that additional areas can be added with a new contract later.