Pizza night with police chief reveals crime decrease in Antioch

ANTIOCH, Calif. (KTVU) - A police pursuit initiated by Antioch's police chief led to the arrest of three men in a stolen car. Antioch police had to abandon the pursuit at one point, however, and turn it over to the CHP because the Antioch police communications system begins to fail the farther officers move outside city limits.

The pursuit of the white Honda sedan started just before 10:00 Thursday morning. Antioch's Police Chief Allan Cantando says he spotted the car on his way to the office.

"The vehicle actually passed in front of me and I was able to get a license plate and the vehicle came back stolen," Chief Cantando told KTVU.

The chase reached speeds up to 100 miles an hour before the Honda crashed on southbound I-680, in Walnut Creek.

Chief Cantando says the limited communications system is just one of the many challenges his department is facing.

He laid it all out to the public at a pizza night with police on Thursday night.

"We want to present them with what's going on in the community, what's going on in the police department," Cantando said, "But at the same time hear their concerns about issues in the community."

Community relations is key for Antioch's understaffed police force with 88 officers, compared to the 102 authorized positions. There are about nine officers per shift to cover a city of 100,000 people.

So the department is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach, and they seem to be having some success.

Violent crime overall in 2014 was down 9.7% compared to 2013. The chief credits officers and the community for helping.

A team of 70 volunteers put in more than 10,000 hours of work for free.

"We have volunteers that come in on a daily basis, that work day and night, that do jobs that typically a police officer would have to do," Chief Cantando told KTVU, "Putting out radar trailers, vacation house checks, issuing handicapped parking citations."

Some community members said they thought the meeting was helpful.

"I think it's good, the more transparency the more information, they put out there the better it is for the community," said Louis Williams of Antioch, who was attending the meeting for the first time.

There were also suggestions for improvements in reaching out to more community members.

"Instead of having them come here, you have to go out to where they are, where the people are," Williams told KTVU

Others commented on police response times.

"We definitely need to have them respond quicker. We've had quite a few incidents. I had a car accident myself and it took two hours to respond to it," said Kay Dean, an Antioch resident.

The police chief says right now, they're actively hiring more people to boost the number of officers.

Chief Cantando holds pizza nights and coffee meetings periodically with an open door for the public. The department has also created a smartphone app to help provide more information to the community and get more community involvement.