Bensalem Police Director William McVey released a strongly worded statement about how lax crime policies in Philadelphia are negatively affecting the suburbs.
McVey said he wanted to support Abington Police Chief Patrick Malloy, who was attacked in The Philadelphia Inquirer when he spoke out about a suspect arrested for trying to kidnap a girl at the Willow Grove mall. Malloy had noted the defendant should have been in jail in Philadelphia, not out in public committing more crimes. Malloy called the incident a “disgrace” and said, “The system failed.”
“Malloy’s frustration is shared by many police chiefs across the region, especially those that border Philadelphia,” said McVey. “Suburban chiefs from the region can provide numerous examples of the effects of bail reform, but the most horrific was that of Corporal James O’Conner, who, while performing his duties as a Philadelphia SWAT Officer, was shot and killed by a suspect with an extremely violent past who remained on the streets. This broken process has to end.”
McVey noted the three things he said hamper the effectiveness of Philadelphia police: The Drivers’ Equity Act, District Attorney Larry Krasner’s policies, and a lack of political leadership.
The Drivers’ Equity Act prevents Philadelphia officers from stopping drivers for minor issues, such as a broken taillight.
“It is common knowledge that criminals travel in vehicles that are unregistered, uninspected, or have equipment violations,” McVey wrote. He said that traffic stops keep roadways safe and often result in arrests for guns, drugs, or on warrants.
In Bensalem, 40 percent of those arrested are Philadelphia residents, up 10 percent from five years ago.
McVey later told DVJournal, “The Driver Equity Act takes away the right of a Philadelphia police officer to stop people for certain specific, what they call ‘minor’ offenses. And what has happened is you have criminals now that just drive without fear. We have seen an increase in the number of convicted felons that we have stopped on our car stops for minor offenses and subsequently located a gun in their car, an illegal gun.” He noted that convicted felons are precluded from owning a gun. “Most of them are from the city of Philadelphia. We’ve had nine of them this past year.”
Mike Chitwood, the retired Upper Darby police superintendent, concurred with McVey’s assessment.
“I agree with him 100 percent,” said Chitwood. “All along the borderline with Philadelphia, these smaller communities, because of crime allowed to occur in Philadelphia. And it expands. I can’t tell you how many times (police) make a car stop and come up with a gun or some other evidence.”
“With the escalating crime, violent crime and shootings and murders in Philadelphia,” McVey said, “the police are your number one tool to combat that, and they’ve taken away some of their tools to combat what. And what happens now is more criminals are driving about freely, and they’re going out in the suburban towns carrying guns, committing crimes.” It has also affected the traffic accident mortality rate across the country as more jurisdictions pass similar laws. It is up 18 percent since 2020, according to NITSA, he added.
“As most people know, minor things lead to serious things, so you can’t just give a free pass. And the other issue is the (Philadelphia) District Attorney’s Office with its bail reform.” He said there is a “striking difference” between bail set in the counties and bail set in Philadelphia for similar crimes.
The other problem in the city is that Krasner has prioritized investigating and prosecuting police officers, McVey noted. That atmosphere has made police less likely to do their jobs proactively, he said.
That has officers leaving the Philadelphia Police Department for other jobs, including in the suburbs.
“We’re seeing a mass exodus (from PPD),” McVey said. “In the last five years, we’ve hired 16 officers out of Philadelphia” who are “doing a phenomenal job.” Bensalem has 106 officers. And many of the officers the city is losing are the best of the best, he said. “I really think the city needs to do something and do something fast to prevent it from getting worse.”
A Philadelphia police spokesman declined to comment about McVey’s remarks.
In Bensalem, the police have the support of Mayor Joe DiGirolamo, “who unapologetically makes public safety public safety his first priority for his township,” McVey wrote. “He not only supports our officers in their duties but encourages our police, by all legal means necessary, to keep our residents safe.”
He also praised Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub, now running for judge, for “holding criminals accountable” and standing “with the men and women in law enforcement.”
“This type of leadership from elected officials certainly leads to a safer community for all,” McVey wrote.
Neither Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s office nor Krasner’s spokesperson responded to requests for comment.