ST. LOUIS – The new St. Louis Police Chief, Robert Tracy, broke what had largely been a public silence during his first two weeks on the job.
He’d been quiet even with the city facing a new wave of troubling crimes and officers facing gunfire in recent days.
That just changed Tuesday afternoon, as 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 was about Monday’s robbery and carjacking spree in south St. Louis. Police reported five carjackings and two holdups at ATMs. Four of the seven armed robberies happened in a span of 70 minutes, from 4:50 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
“I assure you, that’s my specialty in trying to get after these things,” Tracy told the committee.
A number of the suspects involved appeared to be the same teens who broke into multiple cars at the City Foundry STL on Saturday, authorities said.
Suspects fired guns as police detained two juvenile suspects. Police later released them, and they never appeared in juvenile court, according to court officials.
“It’s 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.
Aldermen asked Tracy repeatedly about the police department’s 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 officers or more were expected to leave in the coming months, sources said.
“I have something right now where they gave me this; I’m going through things,” Tracy said.
He said he’d begun a staffing analysis before he officially started on the job on Jan. 9.
“What I would like to have might not be what I can produce right because there just isn’t enough bodies,” Tracy said. “So, what are going to do with the bodies we have? We’re not going to surrender.”
He stressed his long-term goal of a more community-oriented approach to fighting crime.
“Be more proactive … when I say proactive, I (mean) proactive in building trust with the community and being able to do more things,” Tracy said. “(so) we can walk those foot posts, and we’re not running from call to call to call. That’s my ultimate goal here. It’s going to take some time.”
Tracy was also scheduled for a public appearance at the state capitol in the Jefferson Committee on Wednesday for a hearing on a new bill that would take control of the police department away from the City of St. Louis and return control to the State of Missouri.
He told the aldermen he was against the proposal.