The Rankin Police Department will hand over night patrols to the Pennsylvania State Police next month. Rankin will still have its own police force, but Mayor M. Nicholas Glova said Tuesday that the borough has struggled to keep enough officers to provide round-the-clock coverage.
“We have lost several part-time officers these past few months to full-time positions in school districts and hospitals,” Glova wrote in a letter to residents. “We are having a difficult time replacing them.”
“The shortage has begun to affect our department,” Glova also wrote, “and we must take action to avoid disruption of service.”
State police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said troopers will pick up midnight shifts in Rankin beginning Nov. 1.
“That borough will just be absorbed into the patrol zones that are already in place,” Tarkowski said, “and our troopers will be available to proactively patrol and also respond to calls.”
The local state police troop covers all or part of Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westomoreland counties: Tarkowski said many troopers are stationed in smaller zones throughout the area and can complete much of their work from their vehicles.
Still, he said, “the reality is, as more departments either fold or rely on state police for part-time coverage … the response time may not be the same as people are used to with a local municipal department.”
Glova, the Rankin mayor, asserted that the decision to turn night patrols over to state troopers was due to “a lack of manpower" and "not a financial issue.”
But Allegheny County Councilor Paul Zavarella said other nearby communities are stretched financially.
“A lot of those communities down there are struggling in terms of the revenue that they’re generating and having a difficult time balancing their budgets,” said Zavarella, whose district includes Rankin and other Mon Valley municipalities.
The county councilor said, because of such fiscal challenges, area departments have increasingly relied on part-time officers.
“Some of the various police departments are paying wages in the $12 to $15 per hour range, versus what it would cost to hire a full-time police officer,” Zavarella said.
Rankin has joined the boroughs of East Pittsburgh, North Braddock, and Whitaker in exploring the possibility of consolidating police services into a shared force. Such a move could help cut costs after years of population decline.
The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development is conducting a study with the four municipalities to examine the potential benefits of consolidation.
The state police provide full-time or part-time coverage to almost 67 percent of the 2,560 municipalities in Pennsylvania, according to Tarkowski.
Two other communities in Allegheny County also receive full-time service, according to state police data: Glenfield and Haysville. Fawn Township receives part-time coverage.