Franklin Township supervisors said that expenses for police protection now make up 25 percent of the municipality's entire budget.

The township has four full-time officers and three part-time patrolmen. This means that despite the high expense, the township doesn't have 24-7 local police protection.

Other municipalities face a similar problem. Local police protection is expensive. Besides the salaries, there are costs for uniforms, firearms, vehicles and insurance.

But local police protection is necessary.

One supervisor suggested that regionalization might be an alternative.

This has been discussed several times in the past.

In 2008, Franklin Township Chief of Police Thomas Beltz suggested to his supervisors they look into regionalizing.

Back in the '80s, thought was given to regionalizing police in Franklin, Lehighton, Weissport, Mahoning Township, Parryville and East Penn Township.

At the other end of the county, several proposals have been aired about merging Panther Valley departments.

In several cases, state officials studied the feasibility of regionalizing. In those studies, it was always deemed that regionalization would make police protection more expensive because of the need for specialized personnel.

Some municipalities such as Penn Forest Township and Parryville don't have local police departments. They depend on free service provided by state police. Eventually this will likely change. Several times there have been proposals imposing a fee to residents who have no local police force for the state police service.

Consideration should be given to the formation of a countywide police department in Carbon.

All police departments in the county work closely together and often provide mutual aid to each other.

There's another problem with the current setup. Often when arrests occur, magisterial hearings and court proceedings take the arresting officer away from the respective municipality for hours sometimes days meaning at that time even a full-time force is inactive in patrolling.

Sometimes, because police are stretched in their shifts, budgets are increased by overtime requirements.

The present individual police department is, frankly, a failure. While police are doing a great job on battling crime, in many municipalities they are failing in other ways.

As an example, at the Times News we attempt to contact police for information on crashes, robberies or other serious crimes. Sometimes police can't be reached or they don't return calls.

If the media has this problem, obviously the public has similar issues.

Also, police work is more complex than it ever was. At one time, anyone could wear a badge and qualify for police work. Today there are widespread drug problems that require special training to combat. Investigations are more complex. Equipment is specialized.

It makes sense to have a countywide police department instead of individual stations.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com