In Corbin City, the nearest law-enforcement officer is 40 miles away.
Adding 10 more troopers to the Buena Vista Barracks would not really help — but bringing a trooper substation to the area would, Mayor Carol Foster said.
“Estell Manor or Weymouth Township would be the perfect place for it and much closer to us,” she said.
Mayors whose rural towns are patrolled by State Police say they’re seeing fewer patrols — a trend they are calling on the state to reverse. But the State Police say they can’t do much more — what manpower and money they have are diminishing resources.
Buena Vista Township Mayor Peter Bylone agreed it’s a problem.
“It’s probably a little more difficult for us to ask for help, but it is part of the state mandate to supply troopers. We feel we need more troopers, so shouldn’t they supply them?” he said.
The issue arises four years after rural mayors successfully fought a state requirement to pay for State Police services. In 2008, the Council on Local Mandates found it is the state’s obligation to pay for State Police services.
But that didn’t solve the budget problems behind that proposal, and State Police resources remain stretched.
Towns where State Police patrol should be aware of the diminished resources that are a reality for law enforcement across the state, said Chris Burgos, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association.
“The State Police budget is less than one one-hundredth of the annual state budget but provides law-enforcement services to 9 million citizens and millions of visitors to New Jersey each year,” Burgos said.
State Police also expect further losses: The 2013 fiscal budget recommendation for the State Police is $291 million, a decrease of about $6 million from the previous fiscal year.
The agency is responsible for full-time patrols in 78 municipalities and part-time patrols in nine municipalities, State Police data show. Locally, they patrol eight towns in Atlantic County, three Cape May County, 12 in Cumberland County and one in Ocean County.
Which makes a shortage in manpower noticeable.
Port Republic Mayor Gary Giberson calls it the State Police “attrition bleed.”
Data from the state Department of the Treasury shows the increase in retirements started in 2011. Last year, 201 troopers retired, nearly double from 2010 when there were 106 retirements.
“With the hiring in the 1980s, where members now have reached 25 years of service and have decided to retire, this was anticipated many years ago. We warned the state that new classes had to be planned to backfill this anticipated attrition,” Burgos said.
The state had no choice but to authorize two recruit classes earlier this year, Burgos said. The two classes of more than 200 troopers are expected to graduate at the end of 2013, he said.
The fiscal year 2013 budget includes funds for the recruitment of 300 new troopers, said Andrew Pratt, spokesman for the Treasury.
Estell Manor Joe Venezia said he is optimistic the new troopers from the two impending classes of recruits will be spread out, and southern New Jersey towns will find some relief.
He said response times have been affected by the thinned ranks — troopers in the area respond on an on-call and as-needed basis.
“On the weekends, I have noticed they are out there doing more patrols. The only complaints I hear from residents is response time, and I would like to see that improved,” he said.
But Port Republic’s Giberson — who last month was named president of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors — is putting together a petition to send to Gov. Chris Christie to address State Police shortages. The petition has the support of other area mayors in municipalities patrolled by the State Police, he said.
Part of the plan is to make sure that when a trooper retires, another individual is put into the academy to replace him to stop the thinning of the ranks through attrition, Giberson said.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Giberson said he has watched as the State Police have inherited more responsibilities, including homeland security, and policing airports and cities, which mean fewer troopers in rural towns.
“When it comes to public safety, that is what should be first on the budget. I’m not going after the legislators, I’m going after the governor,” he said.
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