ELIZABETH CITY -- The North Carolina Highway Patrol is facing a significant shortage of state troopers.
Statewide, the Highway Patrol is short roughly 200 troopers. Those jobs account for more than 10 percent of it's total workforce.
"It's not an issue that's going to go away anytime soon," said First Sergeant Jeff Gordon with the Highway Patrol. "We're actually beating the bushes out there, trying to find qualified, quality applicants to join."
Gordon said a number of factors have led to the shortage, including troopers leaving for higher-paying jobs and a wave of troopers that are retiring.
In the northeastern part of the state, the Highway Patrol is short 18 troopers. They are down five in the district encompassing Dare and Currituck Counties, six in the district including Gates, Hertford and Bertie counties and seven in the district spanning Perquimans, Pasquotank, Chowan and Camden counties.
"What it means is our response time is gonna be delayed, of course," Gordon said. "It's not unusual to have a trooper who works one county or two counties by himself. So, a lot of territory to cover, a lot of responsibility, so it is an issue and it's an issue that we're dealing with."
State Representative Bob Steinburg (R-Chowan) has met with the Highway Patrol about the shortage.
"Up to this point, we've been very, very fortunate in that we've not had any big issues occur here that would have required an increase in manpower," Steinburg said. "But that's like rolling the dice."
Steinburg said the budget for the current fiscal year includes enough money to fully fund all of the Highway Patrol's open positions, including training academy for the recruits.
Still, Gordon said, finding qualified applicants who want to take the job can be challenging.
"It's a great job, being in law enforcement. It's also a dangerous job and a job that doesn't bring a lot of pay," Gordon said.