EBENSBURG - There are more than 500 trooper vacancies in the state of Pennsylvania, if the number reaches 600 or more, 15 state police barracks could be in jeopardy.
"The Col. of State Police has stated if we get between 600-650 vacancies, he'll have to look at closing stations," said Joseph Kovel, President of Pennsylvania State Police Association. "We are at the point where we have to seriously be concerned."
It is estimated that about 1,000 troopers will be eligible for retirement in the next year or two, which adds to the problem.
"We have the same number of troopers now as we did 12 years ago out on the road and that's not acceptable," Kovel said.
Across the state, including locally at Pennsylvania State Police Lewistown, barracks are dealing with the same problem, increased territory and less man power. PSP Lewistown covers all of Juniata County and, in Mifflin County, parts of Armagh and Decatur townships, along with Kistler, McVeytown and Newton Hamilton boroughs, and Bratton, Menno, Oliver and Wayne townships. Kovel said there are plenty of applicants, it is funding that is the problem.
"It is up to the legislators and governors to ensure that we have enough funding available to put enough cadet classes through the academy to keep Pennsylvania safe," he said.
Each class is at least 100 cadets and costs the state about $10 million to train, educate, outfit and assign over six months.
Despite stations working with fewer troopers, they are automatically assigned to cover a community when its local municipality's police force is not available or closes.
"It is amazing and a testament to the troopers of the state police that they're still able to do he job day in and day out considering the historic low numbers we have," Kovel said.
It is not known what barracks could be in jeopardy if the number goes above 600 vacancies.