Amid safety issues, Antioch offering $500K in grants to help struggling small businesses

ANTIOCH – The city of Antioch is hoping that grants to business owners struggling in high crime areas will not only help those businesses, but reduce crime itself.

“Actually, they took our cash register,” said Sung Chang, owner of Delta Fair Cleaners. “They took whatever. They came out and took everything.”

It was midnight on July 4th when burglars cleared out Sung Chang’s drycleaning business. The police came at six in the morning.

“Later, police told me they were sorry they couldn’t show up right away,” Chang told CBS News Bay Area. “Not enough people. So we had to wait, maybe five or six hours.”

He did not have to wait long for the next burglary.

“Then, another guy, but a month later, he tried to break in again,” he explained. “It happened a third time. So I’m feeling frustration here.”

“Today this corridor stands as an iconic symbol of decades of economic decline, neglect, and disinvestment as the city bulldozed its way into Southeast Antioch,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe said Monday, just across the plaza from the dry cleaners.

Thorpe referenced the sea of empty parking lots and deserted storefronts as he announced a half-million-dollar fund to help businesses in those area. The idea is that sprucing things up will make shopping more appealing.

More shoppers will help businesses and deter crime, officials hope.

“Directly helping merchants by helping the outside of their buildings, look like the rest of the city,” said Brett Sweet. “Try to take it up a notch.”

“I called many times for that grant program,” Chang said. “But nobody answered me.”

Chang said that he reached out multiple times for other grant offerings, but never got a response.

While he applauds the mayor’s efforts to help business owners repair damage, he said a bigger help would be preventing the losses in the first place.

“Even though I applied for insurance,” Chang said. “Somehow I have to pay thousands of dollars to fix the windows. So I’m losing my money here, because of safety.”

Antioch now has about six police officers on duty at any given time, with surrounding agencies lending assistance. A longer-term plan for this area is doing something else with some of this unused space.

The city wants to turn the empty strip malls into mixed use developments, as the region does need housing. Until then, the challenge is safety for those trying to make a living in the businesses that are still here.

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