Saturday, May 2, 2009

Antioch urging county to maintain misdemeanor prosecutions

Fearing a surge in criminal activity, Antioch leaders agreed this week to send a letter to Contra Costa County supervisors protesting funding cuts to the District Attorney's Office.

Those cuts prompted District Attorney Robert Kochly to announce earlier this month that his office would forgo prosecuting many misdemeanor offenses.

Originally expected to go into effect next week, that policy was put off for the foreseeable future earlier this week at an emergency public safety hearing before the board of supervisors. Kochly announced developments that would allow normal prosecutions to continue through the fall.

Despite that stopgap measure, Antioch council members agreed they needed to remain vocal on the issue and put pressure on the supervisors to restore $1.9 million recently cut from the DA's budget.

Councilwoman Martha Parsons said she wouldn't want the Antioch Police Department "to be more stressed and strained than they already are" if people began committing crimes they knew would not be prosecuted.

Some Antioch officials have been vocal on the issue in the past week. Last Friday, Mayor Jim Davis called a news conference at the county courthouse in Pittsburg, where he pledged to work with supervisors to restore funding to the DA's office.

Along with mayors from Brentwood and Oakley, he assured East Contra Costa residents that police will continue to arrest criminals in their cities. Davis also brought up the Advertisementsituation at Tuesday's council meeting as an urgency item.

And at Tuesday's emergency public safety hearing, Councilman Brian Kalinowski chastised supervisors for budget cuts to the DA's and sheriff's offices — two moves he said put the public at risk.

"I'm hopeful that the board has heard some messages, and they make this a working priority," Kalinowski said later Tuesday night.

That night, nearly a dozen Antioch residents also urged action to keep public safety — what some called the base purpose of government — a priority.

"We all need protection," said former Councilman Jim Conley, speaking on behalf of the group United Citizens for Better Neighborhoods. "Government was formed to protect the people."

Others described the situation in plainer language.

"This has to go for contention as one of the idiot proposals of the year," Antioch school board President Walter Ruehlig said.

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