New St. Louis Police Chief Robert Tracy speaks out on the rise in crime

ST. LOUIS – New St. Louis Police Chief Robert Tracy broke the largely public silence during his first two weeks on the job.

He had remained calm even as the city faced a fresh wave of troubling crimes and officers faced gunfire in recent days.

That all changed Tuesday afternoon when members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee asked Tracy questions for more than 90 minutes during their online meeting.

The first question concerned Monday’s robbery and auto thefts in south St. Louis. Police reported five car thefts and two ATM robberies. Four of the seven armed robberies occurred within 70 minutes, from 4:50 p.m. to 6:00 p.m

“I assure you, trying to figure these things out is my specialty,” Tracy told the committee.

A number of the suspects involved appeared to be the same teenagers who broke into multiple cars at City Foundry STL on Saturday, authorities said.
Suspects fired guns as police arrested two teenage suspects. Police later released them, and according to court officials, they never appeared in juvenile court.

“All hands on deck,” Tracy said to the committee.

He stressed the need for cooperative working relationships with all law enforcement partners, including the juvenile court.

City councilors have repeatedly asked Tracy about the police staffing shortage. The department is down more than 200 from an authorized force of 1,223 officers, according to the St. Louis Police Officers Association. Another 300 or more officers are expected to leave in the coming months, sources said.

“I just got something where they gave me this; I go through things,” Tracy said.

He said he began a staff analysis before officially starting his job on Jan. 9.

“What I would like might not be what I can produce properly because there just aren’t enough bodies,” Tracy said. “So what’s going to happen to the bodies we have? We won’t give up.”

He emphasized his long-term goal of a more community-based approach to crime.

“Be more proactive…when I say proactive, I mean (mean) proactive to build trust with the community and be able to do more things,” Tracy said. “(So) we can walk these footposts, and we’re not running from call to call to call. That’s my number one goal here. It will take some time.”

Tracy was also scheduled to make a public appearance at the state Capitol on Wednesday’s Jefferson Committee for a hearing on a new bill that would remove control of the police department from the city of St. Louis and return control to the state of Missouri.

He told councilors he opposed the proposal. New St. Louis Police Chief Robert Tracy speaks out on the rise in crime

Sarah Y. Kim

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