Given much of the region's reliance on state police, a shortage of troopers and discussions about possible barracks closures should be sounding alarms.
While only 33 percent of Blair County municipalities - and 21 percent in Cambria County - rely on the state troopers for all police services, the numbers skyrocket to 80 percent in Centre and Clearfield counties and about 90 percent in Bedford and Huntingdon counties, figures from a state Department of Community and Economic Development website show.
Statewide, 49 percent of Pennsylvania's 2,523 municipalities rely solely on troopers for police services, The Tribune-Review reports. And tight municipal budgets could push that percentage higher.
"I want more cadets; that's what I'm hoping for. If the numbers go down, we're going to have to make significant changes in how we do business," State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan told members of the Senate Law and Justice and House Judiciary committees last week.
Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed money for one new trooper cadet class of 115 in his budget for next year, but that likely will still leave several hundred vacancies in the state police ranks.
Noonan told the Pocono Record last month that he is projecting the state police will have the fewest number of troopers in a decade by the beginning of July. More than 170 troopers have retired this year, with April and December being the heavier months.
The number of municipalities in area counties that rely on state police for all law enforcement duties
Blair 8 of 24
Bedford 34 of 38
Cambria 13 of 63
Centre 28 of 35
Clearfield 40 of 50
Huntingdon 43 of 48
Source: Department of Community and Economic Development
The president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association warned legislators that if a drop in the number of officers results in barracks closures, residents could suffer, Capitolwire reports.
"It's going to take us a long time to get there, and we worry about their lives being in danger," union president Joe Kovel said.
Noonan has raised the possibility of closing some barracks and decreasing the number of aviation units in response to staffing issues.
One of the aviation units is based at the Altoona-Blair County Airport at Martinsburg.
State police closed its Montoursville aviation unit, when the agency's lease with the Williamsport Regional Airport in Lycoming County expired earlier this year.
Noonan said state police have about 335 vacancies in its 4,677 authorized positions. However, retirements could increase that number closer to 1,000 if those officers are not replaced, Capitolwire reports.
Corbett's budget proposal includes a provision that municipalities that don't have their own police forces would forfeit their share of the traffic fines written within their borders. Currently, that revenue is split 50-50 between the state and municipality.
That could generate about $8 million more a year for state police, which the governor has earmarked for equipment purchases.
But finding the money to train and hire people to fill those vacancies in the trooper contingent will be difficult.
This could spur renewed calls to require municipalities that do not have their own police forces or contract for police services with another entity to pay a fee for relying on state police.
Such proposals have not gained traction previously, but given the state's fiscal picture, the idea of a user fee for state police might find new life, particularly for wealthier or more populated municipalities.
With three months to go until a new state budget is due, it remains to be seen how lawmakers will address the shortage of troopers - if they do.
But talk of possible barracks closures and other changes deserves extra attention from all Pennsylvanians, and especially those in communities where state police are the sole source of law enforcement.