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CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. -- A North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper shortage is eating into response times on the roads you drive.

It s also prompting a heavy emphasis on recruiting to solve the problem.

Right now there s a 200-trooper shortage across the state.

It includes nine positions in Mecklenburg, Union and Gaston counties, officials said. More are in surrounding counties.

In Catawba County, Sgt. Everette Reid gets into his car and hits the road, but the ranks around him are thin.

We lose approximately eight troopers a month to retirement and attrition, Reid said about the statewide numbers.

When it comes to response times, there s perhaps no better recent example than this winter's snow storms with dozens of accidents, cars in ditches and in some cases drivers waiting for hours for a trooper to arrive.

Harsh winter met harsh reality.

When you have less people to do it, it's just going to take longer to get the job done, said Reid.

You can tell there's a shortage in this area, said driver Daniel Turner. Just from driving around, just from what you see.

Add in sick, vacation and training days and sometimes there are three to four fewer troopers on the road any given day.

Reid tries to lessen the impact with extra hours.

It does get exhausting, said Reid.

Reid s office in Catawba County also covers Lincoln County. They're down two troopers with three ready to retire.

It takes up to 10 months of training to get a new recruit ready to hit the road. That's where the highway patrol is in overdrive.

But recruiting isn't easy.

Reid says about a third of new recruits into trooper school don t finish

.

Rough hours, high stress, pay starting at about $35,000 a year and being in harm's way to protect others is not a job for everybody.

But it is a job in demand.

We are looking for someone who can make those sacrifices, Reid said.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol is hosting two job fairs over the next week at Troop F Headquarters in Newton. One is April 16, the other April 23. Both start at 6 p.m.

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