MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — West Virginia’s eastern panhandle has been growing by leaps and bounds. In Berkeley County, that has put a strain on the court system.

Berkeley County has grown by nearly a fifth over the past decade — more growth than that of any other of West Virginia’s 55 counties. However, there is a downside.

“With the increase in population here in Berkeley County these last 10 years of about a 19 percent increase in population, and the crime rate increasing about 20 percent, the magistrate court is the front line of all this in the judicial system,” said John Unger, Berkeley County magistrate.

Unger just stepped down as a longtime state legislator and returned home to help with the demand on the courts. Demand growing from the rising crime rate here.

“It is four times — closer to five times more in Berkeley County than any other county in the state,” he said.

That works out to more than 24,000 cases to be divided among the five current magistrates.

“Berkeley County, by far, has the highest number of cases than any other county in the State of West Virginia in regards to magistrate cases,” said Unger.

So after a suspect is booked Unger said that the “magistrate’s court is on the front line.”

This, in a county with nearly triple the caseload per magistrate, compared to every other West Virginia county. The Berkeley County court is looking to the legislature for relief. Kanawha County is the state’s most populous, but it is losing residents and it has twice the number of magistrates that Berkeley County has.