Everyone pays for State Police through tax dollars, but there’s a chance some communities will have to pay even more.
Lawrence Park is a community with a population of fewer than 4,000 people, but Patrolman Mark Riggle says this small town relies heavily on its own police department. “Anywhere from a fire department assist to a crime in progress and it’s just, it’s vital to have us to be able to quickly respond and it works well in our community.”
And the department is just one door away from the Pennsylvania State Police headquarters. Riggle says the two departments work well together, but Summit Township, with a larger population of more than 6,000 people, doesn’t have its own police department and the same goes for Harborcreek Township with a population of more than 17,000.
Harborcreek Township supervisor Joe Peck says they pay for state police protection in a different way.
This year, the township is donating 13.5 acres just west of the municipal building for the new PSP headquarters. “About a half-a-million dollars worth of property that we donated to state police because we find it that important to have them here right in the heart of our community.”
But this investment might not be enough. Peck says he’s been working for the township for 25 years and the topic of paying for protection comes up almost annually with state leaders pushing for municipalities without police departments to pay an additional fee for state police services.
“We work very very hard to balance our budget, to make our budget, and the state has proven they cannot do so. So, they want to do it on the back of the municipalities,” Peck tells us. He also says it’s hard to keep track of what the burden would be because over the years he’s seen so many different bills with different financial obligations. “In Harborcreek’s case, it’s been from a low of $100,000 up to $4.5 million per year.”
Everyone pays for State Police through tax dollars, but there’s a chance some communities will have to pay even more. Representative Ryan Bizzarro explains bill 1619, most recently presented to the house, saying, “People are obligated to pay that initial $25 fee per resident in the municipality and that fee is also subject to increase.”
Bizzarro says he doesn’t see this bill going anywhere fast, but he tells us this idea will, without a doubt, come back until eventually there’s a compromise. Some smaller townships are saying if the state decides to charge a large enough fine, it might just be more cost effective to start their own police department altogether following the example of communities like Lawrence Park.
But, Peck says, “At some point, it’ll probably happen in Harborcreek. Right now, we’re very, very satisfied with what the state police provides us.” For now, there’s no immediate change on the horizon but local leaders say with time they’ll have to decide what’s the real cost of protection.
Riggle, says, “Our community benefits from having us around. You know we’re always available. We’re quick to respond. We handle all types of different calls… People just call and say, ‘hey I need some help with this, this seems off to me,’ and they call upon us to assist them and maybe just have some knowledge they don’t.”
Another community without its own police department is Summit Township. Below you can watch a full interview with a township supervisor as he weighs in on what an additional fee could mean for Summit.