SMITHFIELD, N.C. — Johnston County is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, but law enforcement agencies are having a tough time keeping up.
From construction to traffic, the county is growing by leaps and bounds. Nowhere are the growing pains felt more than at the Johnston County Sheriff's Office and the Highway Patrol.
Both agencies say more manpower is needed to keep up with the increasing population.
"When you look at the Highway Patrol, there are needs everywhere, and Johnston County is one of them," said Sgt. Everett Clendenin of the state Highway Patrol.
Since 1998, the Highway Patrol in Johnston County has seen a 9 percent increase in calls for service. The number of fatal accidents has skyrocketed. There are 25 fatalities already this year, compared to eight this time last year.
The Highway Patrol says the increase has nothing to do with a lack of troopers.
"It's people are not obeying traffic laws and the other part is human error," Clendenin said.
Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell disagrees.
"We have individuals involved in accidents, and because of the shortage of troopers, we have to dispatch a deputy to sit with that lady and children beside the road for two to three hours," he said.
The sheriff admits his own department is in a similar situation. He needs 12 new deputies, but will get by with four.
"We can no longer continue to do more with less. We need more resources," Bizzell said.
The Highway Patrol says help is on the way. Two new troopers are supposed to be assigned to Johnston County following their graduation.