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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, December 01, 2014

State Police Spend $540 MM Per Year To Cover Municipalities With No Police

According to a recent state study prepared for the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, over half (1,279) of Pennsylvania's of Pennsylvania’s 2,500 municipalities have no police department. The Pennsylvania State Police picks up the slack. They also cover another 420 municipalities that only have part-time police officers. They protect 3.3 million people over 82% of the state. This costs at least $540 million annually. This cost is borne by state taxes paid by citizens who already have police departments and are paying for them.

Suburban communities like Upper Mount Bethel, Williams and Lower Macungie would prefer to let others help pay their bill for state police coverage. Thus, Easton residents, who already pay more than anyone else in the Lehigh Valley for police coverage at an annual cost of slightly over $350 per resident, are helping pay for state police coverage of wealthy suburbs.

Currently, there's a state legislative effort to impose a fee of $156 per resident on municipalities that have no police coverage. Lower Macungie would pay $4.8 million for state police coverage. Upper Mount Bethel and Williams Townships would both be assessed around $1 million. Even tiny West Easton, which was dropped by Easton police, would be assessed nearly $200,000.

This is a matter of fairness. State Rep. P. Michael Sturla, the Lancaster County Democrat who has proposed this assessment, makes this argument.
It is true that all Pennsylvania residents help pay for the Pennsylvania State Police through state taxes, but 79% of the population is paying for the Pennsylvania State Police patrols and their own local police department. This is double taxation and unfair to a majority of our constituents. Conversely, 21% of the population is getting 100% of the patrols and only paying 21% of the cost.
His bill will die soon. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it has languished. Though he does have some Republican support, the only Lehigh Valley state rep who signed on as a sponsor is Mike Schlossberg.

It is inequities like these that lead to inequities like Easton's commuter tax.


Anonymous said...

State Police... one of the best kept secrets for municipalities that have police and can no longer afford that service. Use the State Police like those communities BO mentioned and you can save millions in local tax money. 82% of PA communities do... the other 16% actually look silly by making their taxpayers fund a service that the State will provide them for in a sense free.

I earned mine said...

it's the same thing with welfare and food stamps. I have to pay for worthless people.

Anonymous said...

"State Police Spend $540 MM Per Year To Cover Municipalities With No Police."

Is it the state police or the state taxpayer that actually pays this bill?

Anonymous said...

My sister who lives in neffs just had an attempted burglary while she was home. Psp had a 35 minute response time. I'll keep double taxation and my local police department.

Great bill though.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Not only do they provide free services, but they split fines collected in municipalities in which they provide all services to the tune of $26 Million per year. Actually many full time departments use state police services without cost. When Easton disbanded its SWAT team after an officer died, Pa State police provide all SWAT services to Easton. Part of this state's problem is due to the emasculation of county sheriffs which traditionally provide police services in rural areas. Pa state police only enforce state laws. When you have a local noise ordinance, you have to rely on constables for enforcement. The system has been studied and recommendations have been made to correct these inequities. Our cowardly state legislature will not change the system.

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:41, Do I have to answer that question? Of course it is the taxpayer, but the state police "spend" the resources. No easy way to write that headline without making it longer.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:23, I believe that it's time to consider more regionalized police.

Ron Beitler said...

Lower Macungie conducted a study in Jan of last year to determine the most effective and efficient arrangement for the provision of police services within the township.


The determination for now is that we have a low crime rate and therefore low demand for any change or increase in LOS. (a credit to the outstanding PSP who lb for lb I take anyday.)

I get the mooching thing... hear it all the time. I'm sympathetic. But my job as a township Commissioner is to represent the 31,000+ twp residents. For us it's a no brainer.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from the study is that to change course would be crazy since it's obviously the most cost effective but also because our crime rate is very low it's (for now) clearly effective.

Yes, the system plays to our benefit. But we play within that system. Asking us to voluntarily change what's working isn't going to happen.

The answer is in Harrisburg. But any bill proposed has to be equitable insofar as considering the burden it would impose on TRULY rural muni's who use the PSP in the way it was intended vs. rapidly urbanizing suburbs like LMT who use it as a primary provider in the way we do.

Bottom line if I were a state rep I would look at this completely differently and 100% support a bill to make muni's to pay far share for PSP service when it's primary provider. But in the position I'm in now I have to focus on what's best for us within the framework that exists today.

End of the day as we continue to grow the underlying data will inevitably change. Just a question of when. But right now we still have a low apples to apples crime rate. It is rising... And there will be a point the PSP's limited resources will be strained and we will have to address. We MUST set ourselves up financially for that time. (an argument on maintaining more in our reserves than 20% bare min)

When that time comes I agree with you BOH the answer is regionalized force. In East Penn we have 5 PD's within a couple square miles of each other. The logical choice for LMT is merge with Alburtis a small borough we literally surround. My guess is the next 5-7 years.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ron, I am aware of your study and linked to it in this thread. I dispute the contention that you have a low crime rate. In fact, your own report indicates that the PSP was unable to provide you with information specific to your community. The reality is that you don't know your crime rate. I agree you are playing within the rules, but you are also playing with 31,000 lives. It is ridiculous to suggest there is no need for a more localized police department in a population of that size. You all do a disservice to your residents by refusing to have one. In my view, one of the basic reasons for government is to provide security. Since you are not providing it, you should not exist. Nor should any other community over 5,000 that makes no provision for police coverage. We already have enough municipalities.

Ron Beitler said...

It's not just the study. It's resident surveys and direct conversations with the PSP. Troopers like working in the township. Cause frankly it's an easy gig.

Residents mostly do not want a local PD and are happy with the LOS we get now.

The crime we have on average is petty nuisance stuff. People who don't lock their car doors. Box retail that almost encourages retail theft cause it's cheaper than addressing it...

Don't get me wrong. The trend is changing. We have problem neighborhoods today. I say 5-7 years.

When that day comes it has to be regional. One thing I can say with certainty is I do not support a Lower Macungie Township police dept. When we have to move away from PSP it has to be a regional force.

I think if you would ask folks in Upper Macungie (which I have) they regret losing the regional. Not all, but most.

Again, sympathetic to the "mooching" argument. But you gotta take that up with Harrisburg.

Anonymous said...

but they split fines collected in municipalities in which they provide...

No they don't. That changed a while ago. Those fines now all go to PSP.

Anonymous said...

Ron. I read the study Lower Macungie did on police services. It doesn’t take into account many things having a municipal police department have to offer. State police are very reactive to their approach to policing, do you blame them? They handle the highways and other areas that do not have a police department, and there are not many troopers on at one time. It’s not fair LMT burdens them with a large area that can afford a police department. Municipal police departments handle things the state just doesn’t, such as barking dogs, medical calls, township ordinances and other quality of life issues. The state prioritizes calls based on severity. A municipal department will give the township better patrols and more community based. People feel more comfortable calling a department knowing they will get a response for anything. Why wait until something big happens? The township is growing and we need better coverage. Municipal departments keep crime down. I do agree contracting for services is the way to go, rather than starting another department. I’d rather pay an increased tax for police service and get better service.

Chris Casey said...

Ron, lets be real, Lower Mac is getting over on its neighbors. I see Upper Mac police responding to calls in Lower Mac every day. In a perfect world, Upper and Lower Mac, Alburtis, and Macungie would have combined resources and created a greater regional source. But Lower Mac likes getting freebies, and I understand it. Eventually your day of reckoning will come, and your citizens will have to pay for it. And no one will feel sorry for you.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Chris, hope you feel well.

Ron Beitler said...

@anon 4:32 I have asked personally asked troopers. Both individual troopers and have heard PSP leadership present during local reports to the township BOC. According to the troopers there is no excessive burden on the PSP and if anything they actively seek to continue providing service. I've heard the presentation three years now in a row. I don't know why precisely. I have some ideas... but troopers at the local barracks like providing service to LMT and actively lobby to continue providing it.

@Chris I agree with everything you said and I'm willing to take the lumps for LMT's "mooching" because as long as we can do it we should. Based on 1. Crime data 2. Harrisburg allows it.

But for now. For the year 2015 and immediate future beyond that staying with what we have makes sense. You are absolutely correct though about the day of reckoning coming. I think others may be naive about that but I try not to be. We have done little to prepare for it then update the recurring studies every couple of years.

But tomorrow that could all change. My one criteria is that it's DATA driven not emotion driven.

It's my hope it never happens but I try to be grounded in reality. And reality is LMT we are still growing and changing rapidly. The new warehouses and new commercial development will be a driver for a police force. Period. I am convinced of that. It's just if it's 5 years or 10 years. It's coming.

I 100% think we need to be more proactive in planning for that day of reckoning.

@ChrisCasey question: As a UMT resident how do you feel about getting rid of regional. Most of the folks I've talked to regret that decision. I am 100% in favor of exploring regional as our first option when we change our arrangement.

Anonymous said...

Isn't PSP policing the same thing as regional policing? Nobody asked other municipalities to hire large departments with unsustainable compensation and all those ridiculous military toys.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, it's not the same thing. For one thing, the PSP will not enforce local ordinances, but a regional force will. Response times are better for regional forces, too. You won't get a statie to do traffic control or real community policing.

Ron Beitler said...

"No, it's not the same thing. For one thing, the PSP will not enforce local ordinances, but a regional force will. Response times are better for regional forces, too. You won't get a statie to do traffic control or real community policing."

Local ordinances: Yes, this is the biggest problem we have. Hear about this all the time. This is def true.

Response times: PSP will tell you they are up to snuff. But I have been told about issues from residents.. but understand that when your in trouble no one ever thinks the response time is quick enough. Have to point out in the study PSP wouldn't provide response time information....

Traffic Control: PSP is responsive in terms of addressing speeding concerns having set up at certain spots when the township has requested. Fire police handle special events.

Community policing: This area I would say PSP does do a great job. They were fantastic when WLES was designated a walking school. In fact PSP spends lots of time at all our township schools. They also participate in our Public Safety Commission meetings regularly and all our major events like community day and fire dept open houses.

Local ordinance enforcement is the big issue for sure. Response times is the big unknown since they wouldnt provide the hard data. The other areas I'd put PSP up lb for lb against any local force. Esp community policing. Just based on my experience.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in West Easton for over 40 years. I had my taxes raised for police coverage and this is the first time in my life I don't feel safe. As far as I'm concerned I don't have a police department.

Anonymous said...

Give Ron Beitler a lot of credit for his honesty. Who says there aren't any honest politicians?

On the mooching issue, besides PSP, I'm increasingly aware that Alburtis, Emmaus, Macungie Borough, Salisbury, South Whitehall, and Upper Macungie all provide free police service to LMT -- that is, free to LMT, paid for by the taxpayers of these other municipalities. I'll be surprised if this doesn't become a bigger and bigger issue over time.

Chris Casey said...

I will answer the question about leaving Berks regional. Financially, Upper Mac paid over 70% of the bill while it only consisted of around 25% of the area covered. That was a legit argument. Berks regional also covered area over two counties. That was a lot of ground to cover. Also Upper Mac only had two seats on the advisory board, and while thr funding formula required Upper Mac to pay the most, it had unequal representation on that board. Having noted all that, Upper Mac Supervisors pushed thru a 100% tax increase just before they pulled out and created their own. I am glad we have our own safety force, but I believe it would have been more prudent if ALL the municipalities outside of Allentown had joined together behind a COUNTYWIDE force. But that will never happen, because of the political egos. Too many municipalities have people in charge who want to pretend they are "Police Chiefs."

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I have lived in West Easton for over 40 years. I had my taxes raised for police coverage and this is the first time in my life I don't feel safe. As far as I'm concerned I don't have a police department."

You don't. And you can thank two sources: First and foremost, common scold Tricia Mezzacappa, who had EPD there every 5 minutes; Second, the Gross family, who made the mistake of letting her distract them to the point where that boro can't seem to do much of anything right.

They really need to step back and ask themselves whether they are hurting or helping the residents there. I know they volunteer all kinds of time and are performing a public service, but i think they need to allow themselves to be absorbed by Palmer Tp, which is where they would go if they dissolved. It's just too small. They end up with kooks like Dan DePaul on Council.

Anonymous said...

I would rather West Easton be a part of Wilson, which is our current school district. How would we go about making a change like this?

Bernie O'Hare said...

You would need a referendum, both in Wilson and West Easton.

Palmer has no choice since you were carved from Palmer.