State police facing shortage

Station commander says presence is scarce because of decreased staffing

BELLWOOD — State police presence in Antis Township and elsewhere in the county is scarce because of a statewide staffing shortage, a station commander admitted Thursday.

And that shortage is the result of a mandate from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office, disallowing state police officials to fill hundreds of vacant positions, Hollidaysburg-area Commander Sgt. Zigmund P. Jendrzejewski said.

“If it seems like maybe you don’t see us that much in your township, that’s probably accurate,” he said, addressing the crowd at a Thursday evening meeting.

Jendrzejewski disclosed a state police call log for the area, revealing there were nearly 120 motor vehicle crashes reported in Antis Township since January.

Most of those crashes, he said, happened along high-traffic-volume roads, namely I-99 and Old Route 220.

Crash data play a large role in determining where to staff trooper patrols, Jendrzejewski said.

“What we do is we look at where crashes are occurring, and that’s where I have to put my resources. It only makes sense,” he said.

The problem with that is there is only one trooper assigned to patrol Antis Township, meaning he has little time to patrol smaller roads and neighborhoods, Jendrzejewski said.

In fact, that one trooper is not only assigned to Antis Township, but neighboring Snyder and Tyrone townships, as well, he said.

Even with troopers from other patrols assisting, call response times may be lengthened by the one-trooper-per-three-townships model, Jendrzejewski said.

“It’s just the way it is,” he said, explaining patrols are designed by officials at state police headquarters.

“The long and short of it is we are spread pretty thin,” Jendrzejewski said.

Sparse patrols may be especially problematic moving into the fall, when troopers will be required to attend annual trainings, Jendrzejewski said, adding this year troopers must attend three training courses.

“So that’s three days they’re off the road,” he said. “At times, there may be nobody (patrolling Antis Township).”

Jendrzejewski mostly blamed Wolf for the staffing problems, telling those in attendance Thursday that the governor refuses to fill 300 vacant state police positions.

That was a statement Supervisor Leo Matuszewski said he found shocking.

Jendrzejewski noted that there are currently 500 vacancies, though Wolf said he is allowing 200 of those positions to be filled.

“He believes that we can handle it without those 300 troopers,” Jendrzejewski said. “And I guess we are going to handle it without those 300 troopers.”

Of the 200 fillable positions, Jendrzejewski said it could be some time before troopers are assigned to those vacancies. First, they must attend a six-month academy and a three-month field training, he said.

Jendrzejewski also mentioned that municipalities, such as Antis, that do not have their own police forces, put additional strain on state police.

“The state police was never designed as a municipal police department,” he said.

And the busy season for burglaries, thefts and domestic disputes will begin soon, Jendrzejewski said.

“You can set your watch by it,” he said, explaining those crimes are most frequent during the holiday season — November through January.

So far this year in Antis Township, state police also have responded to 21 assaults, 26 domestic disputes, two drug overdoses resulting in death, 11 burglaries, 27 thefts and 16 criminal mischiefs, Jendrzejewski said.

“We’re stretched a little thin, and we are doing the best we can with what we got,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.