Crimes Increase Police Patrols Decrease

06.07.13 | Abby Lutcher

Cambria County has several hotlines for residents to anonymously report drugs and suspicious activity and police say now, more than ever, people are calling tips in, but they just don't have the manpower to investigate. With continual decreases in funding, many local police departments have been forced to cut back, trading full-time for part time and responding instead of preventing. "We're able to respond and we're filling those voids," said Major George Kuzillia, Area III Commander of the Pennsylvania State Police. "But we cannot do the proactive police work that we would prefer to do." The Pennsylvania State Police is required to fill ni for small towns who have have limited or no police presence. But with only 500 troopers across the state, they too are spread thin and patrols aren't always an option. "That's what takes the drug dealers and those hauling the drugs off the street," said Kuzilla. "But when you're responding to a lot of incidents it makes it very difficult to do." It's a scenario all too common for Johnstown Police. Even though calls to tip hot lines have increased, their manpower hasn't. "The community thinks when they call you and tell you about activity at a particular house, in their mind I might have five guys who I can send to this house and sit on it and do surveillance and make stops," said Detective Thomas Owens of the Johnstown Police Department. But, in reality, the department only has four detectives and just enough officers to respond to the most critical calls. "We've gone from 52 to 31 police officers," said Democratic State Rep. Bryan Barbin. "You need to have both additional resources but you have to also accept resources from the other related entities." "Crime isn't just something that police have to take care of," said Democratic Sen. John Wozniak. "It's something every citizen has to be involved in." "You may conduct an investigation into that person and arrest them but then there's someone else filling their spot," said Owens. Both city and state leaders commended the work of local police departments and said it's frustrating they don't have the money to add manpower. Conversations will continue on the issue, though, and the newly formed Johnstown Drug and Violent Crime Commission, headed by Barbin, will be releasing the report of their findings and recommendations in just a few weeks.