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.
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.