It was a welcome scene last week in Millcreek. A new officer was sworn-in to the township police department. The hiring of Officer Herb Lucas brought the number of Millcreek officers to 60. But, only 37 are patrol officers. Those numbers have not changed much in two decades.
"Because of the increased criminal activity in Millcreek Township over that time period, in addition to the types of crimes to investigate, the complexity of the crimes, it's becoming more and more difficult to provide the same level of service with the same number of people," says Chief Tom Carlotti.
The 37 patrol officers are divided among three shifts. With officers on vacation, out sick , and in court, one shift could have as few as seven officers patrolling 29 and a half square miles.
"Add to that the introduction of cell phones and computers, you've got a whole new category of crime that didn't exist 20 years ago. That keeps us busy," Carlotti said.
The chief wants new officers hired before this summer. The number of people who need police services nearly doubles in the summer months. Because of budget constraints, the supervisors are willing to hire two part-time officers this year.
"Every department will come to us and say they want more help," says Supervisor Joe Kujawa. "The Streets Department with the ice, they would like to have another 20 guys down there. It makes it easier. Some time you just have to do what you've got to do. You buckle down. I don't think we're jeopardizing anything as far as safety goes."
Carlotti says he hopes something can be done soon.
"I need manpower. I'd prefer to have full time officers, but if the board and the union can agree on some terms for part-timers, obviously, I'd be happy with anyone I can get."
Neither Kujawa nor Carlotti say Millcreek is unsafe, but Carlotti says the days of Millcreek officers responding quickly to low priority calls, may be a thing of the past.
The supervisors plan to promote the part-time officers to full-time next year. They would replace two officers who will be retiring, including Carlotti.