I recall a friend telling me about a protestor holding a sign that read “F*** the Police” at the Columbus statue in South Philly during the brouhaha around the attempt by the city to remove the popular statue from the predominantly Italian American neighborhood.
Some neighborhood men objected to her sign and told her so in South Philly’s typically earthy style. And what did the woman holding the anti-police sign do? Why, she took out her cell phone and called the police for help.
Several Philly cops contacted me and noted a similar irony with Democratic Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, who has condemned the police but was quick to call the police after she was carjacked.
After the death of George Floyd, Scanlon tweeted, “We have seen too many lives taken and communities devastated by police brutality and racial profiling. Action is long overdue. @HouseDemocrats are fighting for REAL reform in our country’s police departments. #JusticeInPolicing.”
Scanlon was a co-sponsor of the 2021 Mental Health Justice Act, which entices state and local governments to defund the police and empower mental health specialists to act as first responders involving people with mental illness rather than police officers. Most cops object to this vehemently.
“I find it so ironic that a cop critic got carjacked and then up and called the cops,” One police officer said to me. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, and I’m glad she wasn’t hurt, but ya gotta laugh. Why did she call a cop and not a mental health person?”
I replied that even someone critical of the police deserves police protection and a speedy police response after becoming a crime victim. The officer agreed, yet he found the irony amusing.
Scanlon, who represents parts of South Philadelphia and suburban Delaware County, was carjacked at gunpoint after attending a meeting on December 22nd in South Philadelphia’s FDR Park — known locally as ‘the Lakes.’ She and a staff member were not harmed by the gunmen, who took off in her car.
On December 23rd, Jennifer Arbittier Williams, the U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia, announced that a suspect was arrested and charged with carjacking and carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence. A tracking device installed in Scanlon’s car led law enforcement to the stolen car to Delaware. When a group of people approached the parked car in a parking lot, the police officers and federal agents detained five people, including the suspect, who was holding the keys to the stolen car.
“The investigation into this incident is in its very initial stages, and we are continuing to investigate and evaluate charging decisions,” Williams said. “Armed carjacking is a serious federal crime. There have been a rash of violent crimes like this recently, and while there were national security implications to this particular incident, we are always working collaboratively with our local partners to evaluate if cases should be taken federally. Working together means more resources, more tools, more intelligence. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you pick up a gun and use it to commit a crime, together, we will come after you. And we are very good at what we do.”
Jacqueline Maguire, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, added, “Anyone willing to victimize a total stranger at gunpoint at any time, much less in broad daylight, in the middle of the day, is a clear threat to our community. No one who lives, works, or visits here should have to fear violent criminals targeting them for their vehicle or any other possessions.”
Mayor Jim Kenney also weighed in with a statement that read he was appalled by the carjacking. “It’s disheartening, and quite frankly infuriating, that criminals feel emboldened to commit such a reckless crime in the middle of the day in what should be a place of tranquility and peace – one of Philadelphia’s beautiful parks.”
It was good to see the mayor condemn the criminals outright for once rather than blame the crime on guns, poverty and racism.
To be fair, as I mentioned to the cops I spoke to, Scanlon issued a statement that graciously thanked the police. “I appreciate the swift, professional response from all of the law enforcement partners who have been involved in this matter, including the Philadelphia Police Department, Delaware State Police, and FBI. I cannot thank them enough for all they’ve done.”
It has been said that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. I doubt that Congresswoman Scanlon will become a pro-cop conservative, but in the aftermath of the carjacking, she may become more appreciative of police officers.
Paul Davis’ Crime Beat column appears here each week. You can contact him via pauldavisoncrime.com.