WELLSBORO - With the population growing because of the influx of workers in the natural gas industry, police departments across Tioga County are calling for more officers to meet the growing crime rate that came along with it.
Demographic data found on the U.S. Census Bureau's website shows an increase in population of only about 1.5 percent, and Tioga County's population now stands somewhere around 42,000.
The census data from 2000 to 2010 doesn't include gas workers living in hotels, motels or other temporary accommodations and maintaining permanent residences in other states.
"It's the nature of the beast," Wellsboro Police Chief Jim Bodine said.
According to Bodine, the borough could use one more full-time officer, but budgetary realities make that difficult.
The department now has six full-time officers and one part-timer, at a cost of about $350,000 per year.
One more full-time officer would cost about $40,000 a year, but the chief said it has not been approved because of borough "budget restraints."
With the present size of the force, only one officer can be on duty at a time in one of the department's two vehicles, meaning just one officer can police 6,000 people on any given day.
"Our biggest thing is scheduling (and) maintaining a schedule with court days," Bodine said. "With one officer on a shift, some are having six to seven cases per day (and) every hour they are tied up doing paperwork is an hour they are off the street," Bodine said.
Down time is important for the officers, Bodine added. "They need time off, time with their families, time away from the pressures of police work," he said.
"When you have to call them in and they start to be constantly here, we have to do something at that point," he said.
Bodine, who took over for Tom Young a few years ago when Young was elected county sheriff, said the biggest problem for the borough of 3,500 is the extra 2,500 people in the borough on any given day.
And crime has risen along with the population.
"Felony arrests is the problem area," Bodine said, adding that in 2002, just 10 years ago, adult felony arrests stood at just six. In 2011, that figure was 25, four times what it was prior to the industry's arrival.
Juvenile felony arrests have dropped from a high of 11 in 2005 to three last year, and juvenile misdemeanors also have gone down from 14 in 2002 to 11 in 2011.
That figure is double what it was in 2010, when there were just five.
Misdemeanor adult arrests "took a spike from 56 to 71, and most are alcohol related and drug offenses, thefts ... not a huge rise in domestics, but no more than what we had before," Bodine said.
Specifically, the crime Bodine is seeing increase the most is driving under the influence of intoxicants.
There were 62 last year compared to 40 in 2002 and other alcohol-related crimes are also up, such as assaults, because of an increase in bar fights.
Add to that burglaries, thefts and drug-related arrests and the number was 133 last year compared to from 96 a decade ago.
Non-traffic citations such as bad checks, public intoxication and other summary violations ironically have decreased, Bodine said, especially the bad check charges, which were more than 200 in 2002. Last year they went down to 84, indicating more money in people's pockets because of the good-paying jobs offered by the industry.
"Is it all gas people? How do we separate local folks from those that aren't? A lot of the locals are employed by the gas industry now," said Wellsboro Mayor Jim Daugherty, who heads up the police department.
Many of the people new to the area "have bounced around," Bodine added.
"Some have rap sheets. We run a criminal history, and we find that some of them are here because of outstanding warrants in their home states," he added. "States like Texas won't extradite them."
Mansfield Police Chief Merle "Dick" Garrison agrees that increased crime in the area warrants more officers on the street and, partly in response, the borough has hired another part-time officer.
Garrison told council in January that incidents in the borough in 2011 were "almost double the number of incidents from last year across the board."
According to Garrison's report, there were 2,868 calls in 2011, compared to 1,687 in 2010.
Arrests for driving under the influence of intoxicants were 37 in 2011. There were 10 in 2010.
And traffic citations were up from 791 in 2010 to 811 in 2011, with DUI traffic stops accounting for 72 DUI arrests in 2011 compared to 18 in 2010.
Garrison may want another full-time officer, but that doesn't seem likely anytime soon because the cost of maintaining a police department in Mansfield in 2011 was more than $440,000 for the current five full-time and five part-time officers, including wages, payroll taxes, health insurance, workers compensation insurance, other insurances, vehicles and transportation and miscellaneous operating expenses.
Tioga County Detective Scott Henry said the county is "definitely in a changing time, different from years of old."
According to Henry, the district attorney's office saw a 25 percent increase in cases from 2009 to 2010 and a similar rise in 2011.
The rise in incidents is directly related to the increased population of the county, he said.
"I would be comfortable with saying (there was a) 35 to 40 percent increase in those two years," he added. "We had about 560 cases in 2011, and in 2010 it was closer to 420. January's statistics have already well surpassed last year's January statistics."
Attributing it to any one group or reason is difficult.
Some of the incidents may be committed by people working in the gas industry, but a lot of violators are locals, Henry added.
"It's safe to say there is representation from both groups," he said. "We are seeing local folks and gas industry folks."
And it isn't just police, it is everyone involved in the criminal justice system who are seeing more of a workload because of the increasing crime.
"Mondays we used to be able to take care of the normal criminal docket in the morning, and now it is not unusual to see that roll into the afternoon or the following day and we are having more trials, like DUI, than we ever had," he said.
State police commander Sgt. Tom Greene said his barracks in Mansfield has seen an increase in incidents state police have responded to countywide: from 5,123 in 2010 to 5,867 in 2011, up 744.
Traffic related incidents also have risen in the last few years, he added.
According to Greene, in 2010, state police arrested 100 people for driving under the influence of intoxicants, versus 133 in 2011.
DUI-related crashes also rose from 48 in 2010 to 64 in 2011. Crashes not involving alcohol went from 421 in 2009 to 602 in 2010 and 749 last year.
Criminal offenses have nearly doubled, going from 967 in 2008 to 1,411 last year.
The number of troopers stationed at Mansfield has increased with the number of incidents, Greene said, and as incidents rise, so do the number of troopers, though Greene declined to say how many as to not alert the public as to how many cars they might have on the road at any given time.
"We have the manpower to handle what we have right now, and if those numbers go up, our complement will increase as well," Greene said.
As far as Daugherty is concerned, it all adds up to a need for more officers on the street.
"We are reaching the point where we need more than one car on the street at a time," Daugherty said, and "people need to know they need to start locking their doors."
With the increase in people also comes an increase in traffic and an increase in crashes.
Daugherty said a study of traffic on Charleston Road done by the state Department of Transportation in 2011 revealed more than 11,000 vehicles per day, up from 7,000 in 2007.
"Reportable crashes are maintaining, but non-reportable are up," Bodine said.
In a non-reportable crash, both vehicles are drivable and there are no injuries. Those figures were up from a low of 53 in 2006 to 77 last year.
"Traffic moves more slowly and people get frustrated and pull out," he said, adding the most heavily traveled roads are the main routes in and out of the borough, making for long waits to pull out into traffic on the two-lane road, especially when people are traveling to and from their work places at the beginning and end of the day.
"If you have a crash on Route 6 between 7 and 9 p.m., you get traffic backed up in all directions and it doesn't take very long," Daugherty said.