Pennsylvania lawmakers should direct some of their attention to the law enforcement personnel across the state who are struggling to keep pace with more than 450,000 active arrest warrants.

The arrest orders have been issued for those with serious crimes as well as those sought for failing to make court-ordered payments for restitution or fines.

Some wanted individuals can remain free from their court-ordered obligations for years until they get pulled over for a speeding ticket or other minor infraction and police discover there is a warrant for their arrest.

County sheriffs and deputies across the state say their offices are short-staffed and they often do not have personnel who can fully focus on tracking down wanted people.

Sheriffs note that the state could help by providing funding to county departments to help alleviate the financial strain on their budgets.

The Pennsylvania Sheriff's Association is urging lawmakers to introduce legislation next year to provide a funding mechanism that addresses the warrant backlog.

State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, also has a bill that should be on legislators' reading lists. She introduced a bill in the state House of Representatives earlier this year that would require courts to consider whether the individual has the ability to pay before issuing an arrest warrant.

"My proposal will require judges to hold a hearing if an individual has defaulted on the payment of a fine, fee or restitution," Rep. Bullock wrote in a memo to her fellow lawmakers.

She said current practices are unfair to poor defendants because more wealthy people accused of the same crimes or offenses can settle their payments and move on with their lives while poor defendants end up with warrants issued for their arrest.

The proposal — House Bill 562 — was introduced 10 months ago, but has not moved out of the House Judiciary Committee.

That bill and the sheriffs' call for more funding to address the arrest warrant backlogs deserve more consideration and action in the state capitol.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item's editorials represent a consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today's was written by Digital Editor David Hilliard.

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