EDWARDSVILLE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOYU) — ‘Help Wanted’ is the message from police departments across our region and much of the nation. As there continues to be a shortage of police officers as well as fewer and fewer people applying for open positions.

This is really a nationwide problem. Not so much for the larger police departments, like Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, which have more financial resources. But it’s much more of a challenge for the smaller departments.

Police chiefs from across the region told Eyewitness News they are very concerned about the officer shortage.

An Edwardsville Police Officer responded to an emergency call on Friday. This kind of scene is played out each and every day in communities all across Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania. But there are now fewer police officers answering those calls.

“It’s a terrible terrible time to get candidates right now. Nobody wants to do the job,” said Officer Mike Lehman of the Edwardsville Police Department.

Mike Lehman has been a police officer for 30 years. Much of that time patrolling the streets of Edwardsville. He says the police shortage impacts the entire department every day.

“It’s tough, a lot of us still working double shifts, triple shifts sometimes. Part-time is gone. When I started there was a ton of part-time. There’s nobody no part-time now,” added Officer Lehman.

Lehman says he doesn’t exactly know why few people are applying for police officer positions. But says he believes the COVID pandemic is one factor in the equation.

He also cites what he calls an anti-police sentiment in the country. That has scared people away from law enforcement careers.

Kathy Soprano is the Edwardsville Borough Manager, she says the borough is offering some financial incentives to attract officer candidates.

“So we’re trying everything we could. Offering these different things when we can put it out there. Hopefully, get some applicants to come in,” commented Kathy Soprano, the Edwardsville Borough Manager.

Plymouth Police Chief Anthony Gorey says he’s optimistic that the downward trend can be turned around.

“Police departments, local police departments are offering more incentives, higher pay. So I believe it’s going to turn around. I think we are getting more response now than we did the last few years,” stated Chief Anthony Gprey of the Plymouth Borough Police Department.

According to the State Attorney General’s Office. There are around 1,300 vacant police positions across the state.

Eyewitness News spoke with the Director of the Lackawanna College Police Academy in Scranton. The college trains local police officers, so they can obtain what’s called the act 120 certification. He says the number of cadets is on the upswing in recent months.

State police say their cadet class numbers have remained steady.