State Police short hundreds of troopers

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you feel like you've seen fewer state troopers on the road - you might be right. State Police are short more than 200 troopers because of funding cuts.

It will take several years before enough people can be trained to get back to the recommended number of troopers.

Obviously Virginia hasn't gotten smaller, so that means more work has to be done by fewer people. Trooper Greg Finch has patrolled Caroline and King George counties for the last five years.

He said there used to be thirteen troopers covering this area. For the last six months, there's only been seven.

"The workload is the same but with less troopers," Finch said. "We've seen the pressure of doubling the workload for troopers."

Statewide Virginia State Police are down 227 troopers. The state cut funding for the state police academy, not adding a single trooper in 2009. Recruits are cycling through the academy now, but it takes roughly nine months of training before they'll be on the road.

Finch said his biggest concern is safety. Often he's working by himself. If he runs into trouble and needs backup, the closest trooper may be ten minutes away.

"That's an eternity when you needed the backup a minute ago," he said. "It's a big concern. You get used to working by yourself, you get used to being safe and watching your back, but if you need something, it's tough thinking in the back of your head your backup is a ways out."

Luckily there's help on the way for the troopers in Caroline County. Five recent graduates from the academy are starting in a few weeks.

"In three weeks we'll be close to full staff," Finch said. "We'll be at 11 or 12 in Caroline which will take a big pressure off the guys that have been here."

Now he's hoping these new troopers might give him a day off.

"You try to tell your family and they try to be understanding as possible," he said. "You can't always be there for everything. It creates a stress at home when you miss your kid's birthday party or a family function."

Troopers said the shortage has changed the way they go about their jobs. They say it's tough to be proactive and try to prevent crime when they're busy trying to keep up with all the crime that's already occurred.

62 troopers graduated from the academy last month and will soon be on patrol. There are more than 2000 troopers statewide, patrol more than 30-million miles of highway.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.