An increase in burglaries of homes and vehicles has led to the creation of a police department in Oak Ridge, between Terrell and Kaufman.

The community of a little less than 500 residents may see its first car patrolling the city’s 14 streets, Kaufman County Road 142, Farm-To-Market Road 2728 and State Highway 34 in December.

Mayor Al Rudin on Wednesday said Steven Combs has been hired as ORPD’s chief while Thomas Peoples has been appointed as assistant police chief.

“There has been a rise in crime, burglaries [of houses and vehicles] and assaults,” Rudin said. “It is coming out of the Terrell area.”

While Rudin did not have figures on how much crime has increased, he said the community does not have street lights, and a police presence is needed.

He said the increase in crime began about a year ago and residents were calling for creation of a police department to provide protection and safety.

Combs stepped in on Feb. 18 and gave a presentation to the Oak Ridge City Council about forming a police department.

He has experience in helping small cities get the process started and offered to help Oak Ridge, according to the Feb. 18 minutes.

Combs told the council a policy manual was needed and a way to store evidence would have to be determined.

The storage of evidence would be audited by the state, and two locked doors would be needed.

Creation of a police department was discussed again at the Feb. 22 council meeting.

Scherri Holmes, according to meeting minutes, told the council she was on the fence about the prospect of forming a police department.

“She likes Oak Ridge being a small home community but also understands the need to protect our residents,” the minutes state. “As we grow, the need will increase. Maybe it is time to start the process.”

The council was told there would be an application fee of $1,000 to file with the state, and there would be remodeling of city facilities to have a secure room.

During the April 25 council meeting, according to minutes, Rudin was asked by a resident if it would be better to contract with another department.

“For several reasons, this would not work,” the minutes state. “1. The startup cost and construction would be the same. 2. Our location between Terrell and Kaufman would involve two agencies. 3. We had tried to share a judge at one time and we were turned down.”

Councilman Jimmy Quick made a motion to start the process to create the Oak Ridge Police Department with Mayor Pro Tem Joy Davis seconding it. The motion passed with all in favor.

The council on May 23 passed an ordinance establishing a police department.

Combs and Peoples were sworn in by Rudin.

Rudin said Combs is spearheading a fundraising effort for the police department and about $500 has been donated by Halliburton Corporation to purchase three badges.

Still to be determined is where to take juveniles and mental patients if they are taken into custody.

When the city receives its state-approved paperwork, a patrol car may be purchased. Oak Ridge officials are shooting for Dec. 1 to have a car on the city’s roads.

Rudin said police will patrol the city’s streets, answer calls and issue traffic citations.

Kaufman County’s sheriff’s office will handle dispatching calls as well as National Crime Information Center checks.

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Gary E. Lindsley may be reached at news@terrelltribune.com

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