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Bensalem Police Director Speaks Out on City Crime Reaching Suburbs

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.

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Attempted Kidnapping at Abington Mall Worries DelVal Parents

The recent arrest of a 44-year-old Philadelphia man who allegedly tried to kidnap a teenage girl at the Willow Grove Park Mall has Delaware Valley parents on edge. It is also a frightening reminder for some that the rising crime in Philadelphia can be felt in the suburbs.

As outlined by Abington Police, Khalilh Evans tried to abduct a 14-year-old girl at the mall shopping with her friends after she became separated from them on July 12. The girl escaped and captured an image of Evans on her cellphone. Evans, who has a long list of prior offenses, turned himself in to police on July 13.

“I think some of the failed policies in Philadelphia with the District Attorney’s Office, where somewhat of a revolving door, where dangerous felons are let back out on the streets to prey upon our citizens,” said Abington Police Chief Patrick Malloy. “And this is a particularly disturbing case because those are innocent children. This shouldn’t have happened. He should have been detained. He should have been in jail…The system failed.”

Evans approached the girl as she got off an escalator, grabbed her arm, and walked her toward a mall exit. She screamed and was able to escape. Another man was with Evans, police said. The men then fled in a dark gray Dodge or Chrysler minivan.

An analysis by Broad + Liberty showed that while crime incidents increased in Philadelphia by 32 percent from 2018 to 2022, arrests fell by  45 percent in the same period. The authors quote a police source saying police morale has fallen under District Attorney Larry Krasner.

Khalilh Evans

And Tom Hogan, a former Chester County district attorney, now an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a think tank, writes that Krasner, who was first elected with funds from progressive financier George Soros, enacted ideological reforms of “de-prosecution and decarceration” that have led to increases in crime, including murder. The “main victims of the rising homicide rates have been black Americans. Moreover, as businesses have fled increasingly lawless urban centers, the remaining residents have lost both their jobs and their local businesses,” Hogan wrote.

The incident has DelVal parents rattled.

Chalfont mother, Jamie Cohen Walker, has three children, daughters ages 17 and 15, and an 11-year-old son.

“I don’t want my kids going to the mall now,” said Walker. “It’s terrifying.”

A Telford mother whose children are younger said, “With the rise of child trafficking and kidnappings in general, I would never allow my children to go to a mall by themselves.”

Some parents plan to turn this incident into a teachable moment about personal safety.

Elkins Park mom Samantha Brooks said she would probably continue to allow her 12-year-old daughter to go to the mall with friends.

“But I will ensure she has strategies to deal with different scenarios,” said Brooks.

Radnor parent Mike Lake agreed.

Lake said, “I am just as likely (to allow it) but will need to have some important dinner conversations on personal safety and how to try and avoid trouble and what to do if you’re grabbed.”

Jeff Jones, a Drexel Hill resident who is running for Delaware County Council, said his 12-year-old son was at the Springfield Mall Friday afternoon when DVJournal reached him by phone. His sons have all been Boy Scouts and know to stick to the buddy system, so he was not too worried but planned to call and check on him anyway.

“I think this is an opportunity for parents to reinforce that kids should stick with their partner,” said Jones. “Always have somebody watching your back. Don’t talk to strangers.”

However, Jones said he would keep a closer eye on his daughter, now 27, if she were a young teen.

Evans was charged with false imprisonment of a minor and two counts of harassment. He was arraigned Thursday evening, and his bail was set at $25,077. Because of probation violation detainers, he would not be released from jail were he to post bail, said Kate Delano, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele.

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Bucks, Montco DAs Announce Arrests in Gun Trafficking Ring

Twenty-year-old Clayton Robinson of Glenside is the alleged mastermind behind a multi-county gun trafficking ring, where guns were bought by straw purchasers, stripped of their serial numbers, and then sold for cash or bartered for drugs, Delaware Valley officials said Thursday.

The gun ring is also said to have stolen some of the firearms they traded.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele and Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub were on hand with Abington Police Chief Patrick Molloy and numerous officers and detectives for a press conference announcing the arrests. The six guns that police and detectives had seized were on display. However, there are at least 34 guns involved in the scheme, with more likely, said Steele, who added the investigation is ongoing.

Robinson and his crew also sold guns with “switches” they had made to change the firing action from semiautomatic to fully automatic.

“It’s going to fire the entire number of bullets that are in that gun,” said Steele.

Abington Police Chief Patrick Malloy, Montgomery County DA Kevin Steele, and Bucks DA Matt Weintraub discuss gun ring arrests.

Robinson’s two brothers, Julian Robinson, 31, and Kenneth Robinson, 18, were also involved, said Steele.

“This was a true family business,” said Weintraub. “And the product was illegally purchased firearms.”

Clayton Robinson said in a message found by detectives, “I’m not trying to end up in a tri-county tooling ring. Feel me.”

“That’s exactly what these individuals have done,” said Steele. “Tool” is slang for gun.

Clayton Robinson was found in possession of an illegal gun and “this led us to all of these other straw purchases,” he said.

As well as officers and detectives in Montgomery and Bucks Counties, investigators worked with the ATF, FBI, and Attorney General’s Office he said.

“We looked through the electronic record of sales (EROS) and ATF and Pennsylvania state gun sales forms,” he said. At gun stores, cellphone downloads, social media posts, and surveillance, he said.

The straw purchase buyers were allegedly Joseph Lynch, 25 of Morrisville, who purchased 17 guns between November 17, 2020, and March 15, 2021; Maurice Baker IV, 23, of Levittown, who purchased 12 guns between May 12, 2021, and December 31, 2021, and Brett Portner, 22, of Jenkintown, who bought five guns between Jan. 11, 2021, and Feb. 3, 2022.

“Straw purchases of guns for people not allowed to purchase them is dangerous, and is dangerous to our communities,” said Steele. “That is why we are emphasizing these investigations and will continue to investigate.”

Photographs of Clayton Robinson holding one of the guns and also a video of him grinding the serial number off of it were displayed.

“This (video) was made because he’s letting his customers know he’s taking the serial numbers off these guns,” said Steele.

“Quite frankly, we appreciate the very strong evidence he has provided to us,” said Steele.  Also, there was a text message from Clayton Robinson saying, “Come drop me off a pistol, too. I really got to stay dangerous.”

Steele asked anyone who knows where the other guns are to come forward before SWAT officers raid their homes. The guns can be turned in anonymously through their lawyers.

Weintraub said several of the firearms were found through car stops by police in Bensalem, Yardley, and Middletown and praised the “great police work” involved.

“Thank God for criminals who like to show off,” said Weintraub.

“The vast majority of these guns were purchased seemingly legally in Bucks County,” he said. But 28 guns “are still out there in the hands of criminals, who intend to terrorize, maim, hurt and kill. This is unacceptable…Something has to be done about this.”

“Fighting illegal gun trafficking is our top priority in Bucks County,” said Weintraub. “We are all in on this.”

Clayton Robinson, a suspect, removing a serial number from a gun.

Several gun stores in Bucks County had sold the guns to the straw purchasers and are cooperating with authorities, he said.

“This is a scourge. Drugs and guns go hand and hand and we know that” he said. “The combination is not only dangerous. It’s deadly. And it’s proliferating.”

Weintraub said a lot of law enforcement agencies are working together.

“It’s all hands on deck to eradicate this scourge,” he said.

Asked if the guns were used in other crimes, Steele said some were, including in Idaho and Massachusetts.

The suspects made small amounts of money or traded the guns for drugs, said Steele.

“This is people making not a lot of money, hundreds of dollars, and now they’re facing five-year mandatory sentences for a small amount of money and a small amount of drugs. If anyone thinks it’s worth it, they’re sadly mistaken,” Steele said.

“People were placing orders (for guns),” Steele added.

“The five men were operating a corrupt organization,” said Steele. “When you talk about straw purchases, individuals who can legally buy guns were buying them and putting them in the hands of criminals.”

When someone does this more than once it is a 5-year mandatory sentence under the Brad Fox Law, named for a police officer who was killed with a firearm bought through a straw purchase, said Steele.

The five men face multiple charges, including conspiracy, unlawful purchase of firearms, and criminal use of communication facilities, said Steele.

“We’ve got this epidemic of gun violence,” said Malloy. “When you think of Abington, Montgomery County being five short miles away from one of the most violent neighborhoods in our country and for us in Abington our officers during car stops are witnessing more guns…often it starts by good proactive policing.”

Abington Police had a search warrant for Robinson’s house and used a drone to find a gun that he had hidden on his roof, said Steele.

“Just because we haven’t tied any of these guns to any homicides, there is no doubt if we were not out there doing this work, then one of these guns would be responsible for taking the life of someone,” said Malloy.

Steele said if one of the trafficked guns is found to have been used in a homicide or shooting the sentencing judges for the defendants will be informed of that fact.

The affidavit of probable cause said the ring members were involved in a “gun trafficking operation.”

“The purpose of this corrupt organization was to illegally obtain and distribute numerous firearms to others,” it said. The ring members “conspired to purchase firearms illegally, making materially false statements on the application/record of sale and then illegally transferring the firearms.”

While most of the members of the straw purchase gun ring are in custody, authorities are seeking Lynch, who is on the lam and may be in Kentucky.

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