Little trouble since chief left

Monday, December 11, 2006
Oran resident Bill Hudgens discussed his views of the police situation in Oran. (Fred Lynch)

ORAN, Mo. -- Oran is peaceful enough that the small Scott County town may not even need its own police force, the way local resident Bill Hudgens sees it.

Hudgens and other Oran residents are wondering where rumors of crime in the town are coming from.

"I didn't know we had a problem before," Hudgens, a local resident for 50 years, said Saturday as he drank coffee at an Oran convenience store. "I don't see a problem. It's been quiet and peaceful, as far as I can tell."

Oran has been without any in-house police presence since Nov. 7, when then-chief of police Marc Tragesser and the rest of the city's three-member police force resigned. Tragesser took over as chief in July 2005, sparking a controversy that pitted community members against each other: supporters of the chief and his detractors. What was at issue was Tragesser's more strict style of law enforcement.

The city is now looking to hire two full-time police officers to staff Oran's police force. The application period ended Nov. 21, and the city clerk's office said the applications have been forwarded to Mayor Tom Urhahn. Urhahn declined to comment for this article, saying he wants the town to move on.

The Oran Board of Aldermen's next regular meeting is Tuesday night.

Hudgens shares the mayor's desire to move on. He says the attention given to the Tragesser troubles cast the town in a negative light, and reports in local media outlets like the Southeast Missourian and KFVS12 were the primary culprits, he said.

Hudgens said the tenor in Oran has improved in the last month, but it's still too early to tell if things will go back to the way they were before Tragesser's time in Oran.

"I don't think some things will ever get back to normal," Hudgens said. But he's glad Tragesser is gone.

Jeannie and Perry Bollinger are glad to be rid of the former chief, too. Like Hudgens, they criticized the local media outlets for their reporting of the situation, and like Hudgens they say the mood in Oran has improved since the chief left to take a job as a Mississippi County sheriff's deputy.

"We wish him luck in Mississippi County," the Bollingers said.

Since the police force resigned the Scott County Sheriff's Department has been responsible for patrolling and responded to calls in Oran. Sheriff Rick Walter said Saturday that he had heard rumors of crimes like shootings, domestic assault and robberies in Oran, but to his knowledge there was no truth to them.

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