Antioch to use $1.8 million state grant to stem gun violence

Newly awarded a nearly $1.8 million state grant, Antioch will work with local nonprofits and police to develop strategies to interrupt the cycles of violence in the community.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously accepted the grant, with Vice Mayor Mike Barbanica absent. The grant requires a 100% match of cash or services, office spaces, supplies, and the funding, awarded through the Board of State Community Corrections, can be used between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2025.

“This CalVIP program aspires to reduce violence, minimize incarceration, and promote opportunities for individuals at the highest risk, specifically around gun violence,” Tasha Johnson, Antioch Youth Services Network manager, said in introducing the proposed program.

Councilwoman Tamisha Torres Walker, who has been advocating for the California Violence Intervention Program grant since 2019, said that she and Moms Demand Action, with support from Advance Peace and The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) and others, spent tireless hours writing the application.

Members of the community have been waiting for such a program, she added, noting Antioch residents from areas where gun violence is an issue “really want to see this happen” and “community-based organizations have been lining up to ask how they can get involved.”

The money will be used to support a community-based gun violence reduction initiative focusing on community engagement, Torres Walker said in an interview before the meeting. Antioch’s program will be similar to Richmond’s successful Office of Neighborhood Safety gun violence prevention and intervention initiatives, she said.

“This (Richmond) program has been replicated nationally and almost every community has been impacted by gun violence,” Torres Walker said. “… And so, it really is a best practice, it is being seen as a best practice, funded as a best practice and it has already been expanding nationally.”

Antioch Police Department 2021 crime statistics show the city of Antioch experienced a 40% surge in gun violence compared with the previous year. And, though arson, robberies, rapes dropped the first nine months of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020, homicides increased from seven to eight, and aggravated assaults that involved gun violence increased exponentially by 39.8%, from 264 to 369. Officials conclude that based on the gun violence data, one can predict gun violence will increase in the coming year, according to the report.

Initiatives funded through CalVIP must be primarily focused on providing violence intervention services to the small segment of the population that is identified as having the highest risk of perpetrating or being victimized by violence in the near future.

Having previously volunteered with CeaseFire for several years to help curb violence and seen what the Richmond Office of Neighborhood Safety has done, Torres Walker said the community-led program will be supported by the city and run out of the new Office of Public Safety and Community Resources.

The city will work in partnership with Bonafide Sisterhood Inc. and NICJR to establish the program, she said.

As it is structured, street outreach workers familiar with the dynamics of the community, will be deployed to engage community members, figure out who is committing gun violence and come up with ways to steer them away from the violence and toward jobs and other resources, Torres Walker said.

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all for everybody,” she said. “Whatever the plan is for each individual, it will be based on the level of risk and need.”

Mayor Lamar Thorpe said he supported the program and thanked Torres Walker for her work on bringing it forward.

“I want to thank you for really opening the door in this new path that we’re taking, and frankly, speaks to where residents are,” Thorpe said. “The old approach just isn’t working. This is the new way that people want us to attack these problems.

“Police can’t solve all the problems,” he added. “We have to use law enforcement, we have to use community voices and leaders and other approaches that really get into our communities and try to figure out these complex problems.”

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