ANTIOCH -- Civic leaders and local residents are looking for ways to change the culture of a corridor with a notorious reputation for crime, drug dealing and gunplay.

An ad hoc committee created at the request of Mayor Wade Harper is in the early stages of exploring ways to increase public safety in the neighborhood of apartment complexes and duplexes off Sycamore Drive between L Street and Auto Center Drive, as well as address issues such as blight, graffiti and eyesore properties.

A meeting will be held Wednesday night, with a larger outreach in the works.

"What we're trying to do is get out into the neighborhood and try to find leaders that are willing to work with (the city)," City Manager Steve Duran said. "We're hoping we can start to get everybody talking. In the big picture, we're trying to help empower the community."

Antioch Police Detective Desmond Bittner, right, searches a man on Peppertree Way on Thursday, April 21, 2011, in Antioch, Calif.  (Jose Carlos
Antioch Police Detective Desmond Bittner, right, searches a man on Peppertree Way on Thursday, April 21, 2011, in Antioch, Calif. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)

Added Harper, "We want to find out what people's need are."

Some ideas Harper has heard off the bat include job-training assistance and more recreational opportunities for youths at Contra Loma Park.

The meeting comes on the heels of an unnerving week for residents that included three shootings in as many days, two of which wounded people. Many say they hear gunshots every day.

Karl Dietzel, a 19-year resident on Dogwood Way, says there has always been suspicious activity in the area but "nothing as wild as now."

"People are afraid to walk to the store or let their children go out and play," said Keysha Hall of Turnaround Ministries 4 Kingdom Living. "Most of us can't afford to move, but that doesn't mean we have to live this way."

There have been several attempts to rehabilitate the area over the years, but plans have fizzled because of dwindling resources and turnover in both residents and property ownership.

About 78 percent of the 1,302 occupied homes and apartments in the Sycamore neighborhood are rentals, according to 2012 American Community Survey estimates.

David Rubio, a longtime resident in the Riverstone Apartments and co-captain for his neighborhood watch, says he's optimistic that Antioch officials are "serious about cleaning up the area."

One suggestion that came up at a recent brainstorming session was brightening streetlights.

"It's something to give folks in the area some hope, and something to be proud of," Rubio said, adding that many residents have a sense that no one cares.

At one time in the mid-1990s, Antioch police deployed a community-policing program, which led to some reductions in violent crime. But the department's strained resources are needed to react to priority calls, and there aren't enough officers for that type of program, Chief Allan Cantando said. Police still do specialized enforcement sweeps but on a very limited basis, he said.

Sycamore's geography, including alleyways and open carports, make it a challenge to spot drug deals, police said. Over the years, the main road has become a thoroughfare that out-of-town visitors use as a drive-thru for buys.

Individual property owners have taken security precautions, including a few apartment complexes adding wrought-iron fences and homeowners associations hiring private security guards and installing surveillance cameras.

One early item discussed is coordination among the various property owners and management companies on best practices and getting more owners involved, said Todd Greisen, community manager of the 328-unit Contra Loma Estates subdivision.

Antioch police officers photograph the scene of a drive-by shooting on the 1700 block of Sycamore Drive in Antioch, Calif., on Friday, April 6, 2012.
Antioch police officers photograph the scene of a drive-by shooting on the 1700 block of Sycamore Drive in Antioch, Calif., on Friday, April 6, 2012. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff Archives)

"If everybody knows everybody, we can more efficiently deal with any issues," Duran said.

Dietzel suggests the addition of speed bumps or one-way streets to help slow traffic and deter crime.

"Hopefully it grows; it would be nice if we see something happening from this. It would provide a big lift," Rubio said.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

If you go
What: Sycamore neighborhood ad hoc committee meeting
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Contra Loma Estates, 1203 Sycamore Drive