In 2007, a study was done by the Pa. Governor's Center for Local Government Services regarding the potential regionalization of police departments in the Panther Valley area.
The proposal was rejected.
Such a study was also done in 1989 for the Panther Valley area. This proposal also didn't get too far off the ground before being nixed.
There have been regionalization studies done for police departments in the Lehighton area, too, but also have crashed into a proverbial brick wall.
With the finance status of so many municipalities reaching the critical point, maybe it's time for one more attempt at regionalizing some police departments.
When Summit Hill was discussing its 2011 budget, some council members openly considered the possibility of furloughing a police officer.
Lansford admitted its financial posture is dire. Is a cut in police protection very far off?
Even in Lehighton, the council is working with a very tight budget. A one-quarter mill increase occurred and had it not been for money available from the sale of electricity in the borough, that tax hike would have been much higher. This isn't to say the police department will be eventually targeted for cuts, but anything is possible.
So why not regionalize the police departments? Why don't several municipalities combine their financial resources and provide an equipped police unit to efficiently serve all the towns involved?
Lansford, Summit Hill, and even Coaldale could combine their departments and easily provide good coverage for all three municipalities. For many of Summit Hill's police calls, cops must travel through Lansford to answer them.
The 2007 regionalization study for the PV area showed a savings of $93,309 could be realized by regionalizing.
The figure is argumentive, but using the basics of that study and tailoring it to suit the local needs might be worth the effort.
In Lehighton, a viable force could be put together to serve Lehighton, Weissport, and Franklin and/or Mahoning Townships. Weissport could potentially get full-time coverage - something they don't have now - from such a force while the other municipalities might get qualified criminal investigators.
Small towns in general are having a tougher time financing an individual department. With police officers spending as much time doing required paperwork and making court appearances as they do patrolling, something needs to be done to help them do their respective jobs better. Regionalizing might be an answer.
An interesting article caught our eye from the Edinburgh Scotsman newspaper in Scotland.
The Scottish government is backing the merging of the country's police into a single force. Many small towns are vehemently opposing such a merger, fearing policing would suffer.
We agree that police shouldn't be nationalized in any country. But on the other hand, the days of full-time police departments in individual small communities is simply unaffordable.
In Pennsylvania, the state police patrol in municipalities which have no local police department. It's just a matter of time before the state begins charging towns and townships for such a service.
Regionalization might be the answer to local police protection if done correctly. Local officials must be involved in tailoring such a regional force to their needs - and to their affordability.
By RON GOWER