NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - Budget cuts are putting a dent in the number of Highway Patrol troopers in North Carolina
According to an official with the State Highway Patrol, the agency is down almost 200 troopers. There are 1,824 total state trooper positions. Currently, 1,630 of those positions are filled, leaving 194 vacant.
In Eastern Carolina, 129 troopers are slated to patrol 20 counties. Right now, 105 of those positions are filled, and 24 are open.
In New Bern, a dual district covering Craven and Pamlico Counties, there are 16 positions, three of which are vacant at this time.
According to the North Carolina Highway Patrol, there are about four million licensed drivers in the state. The shortage means there is just one trooper for every 2,500 drivers.
First Sgt. Jeff Gordon, the public information officer for the Highway Patrol, said the reasons for the shortage of troopers are budget cuts and recruitment problems. He said not as many people are applying for the position as they've done in the past.
"We just basically have to tighten our belt and do more with less, and hopefully we can get those numbers up soon," said Gordon.
Gordon said about a year ago, the State Highway Patrol were told it needed to cut some positions. He said since then, it's been somewhat of a struggle.
"You're going to see a delay in response times for example if you're involved in an accident, it may take a trooper longer to get to your location because they're having to cover a greater area of territory," said Gordon.
The Highway Patrol is responsible for more than 87,000 miles of state-maintained highways, which is second only to Texas.
But Gordon said although there is a trooper shortage, there has not been an increase in fatalities.