More police coming to Berks

July 17, 2009 4:04:19 PM PDT
Police presence is about to come to some Berks County communities for the first time. Officials are making the change after seeing the results of a year-long study.

The study was sanctioned after years of complaints from the county's smaller towns with either no police department, or a part time force.

Each of the proposed changes would likely cost tax-payers, but county leaders say money needs to be a secondary issue.

"When you have municipalities that don't have forensics, don't have canines, don't have detectives, have part time officers working the streets, are we that safe? That's what I think the threshold question is?" Berks County Commissioner Kevin Barnhard said.

The options presented range from one consolidated countywide police force to 10 regional departments allowing only Reading's to remain separate and intact.

Some Berks County residents Action News spoke to think any kind of change would be an improvement.

"I think it's a really good idea because just for the fact that there're a lot of police forces that don't have a lot of funding and some of the towns have a lot of police and some don't have much at all," James Gibble of Reading said.

But others say, the primary reason why they enjoy rural life centers around the fact that they rarely need police assistance.

"We just don't have that much going on in our area; it is pretty rural. We have the State Police right near us and there are good police stations around here," Sarah Maddonna of Birdsboro said.

Several public hearings are being scheduled for late summer and fall to get local input and a decision will likely not be made until the end of the year.

Right now, though, the formation of one countywide police department seems to be the long shot if for only two reasons: one, officials can't mandate the formation of a countywide department and two, it would require a change in state law which currently makes no allowances for the formation of countywide police departments.