The State Highway Patrol is critically short of troopers – so short that in some places it has no troopers on the road for several hours at a time. The numbers tell a lot of the story. The Highway Patrol has 77 vacancies in its road-going force. 26 more troopers have been called to military service. 98 more troopers are, under state law, providing security at casinos. And it could be worse. Thelaw allows as many as 124 troopers to be working in casinos. End resuilt – some places without 24 hour service. The Patrol also has had to cut back some cooperative investigate work it does with local law enforcement. And the state crime lab is so short staffed that local prosecutors have to wait months and moths before they know if they have enough evidence to file charges. And the trend is not good. Patrol Captain Chris Ricks says poor starting salaries make it hard to recruit replacements.In fact, at this rate, it will take more than three years to fill the 77 existing vacancies, and that doesn’t count troopers who will retire or resign during that time.