The Pennsylvania Democratic lawmaker carjacked at gunpoint in Philadelphia on Wednesday is a chief proponent of federal legislation to replace police officers with mental health professionals.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, who was unharmed but lost her vehicle in the robbery, is one of 125 Democrats backing the Mental Health Justice Act. The bill incentivizes police departments to hire mental health professionals as first responders to emergency incidents and crimes involving individuals with “behavioral” issues.
The bill’s backers claim that having law enforcement officers respond to such incidents only increases the chance that individuals with mental illness and other disorders will be victims of police violence.
“For too long, the problems of people living with mental illness and disabilities have been ignored, and they have ended up in our criminal justice system — often with fatal consequences,” said Ms. Scanlon when the bill was first introduced in February. “In order to address their needs, and change the culture of policing in this country, we must direct resources to meet those needs in a way that provides alternatives to and diversion from arrest, abuse, and incarceration.”
The bill is part of a package of proposals championed by House Democrats to overhaul policing and “end systemic racism” in the justice system.
Ms. Scanlon’s office did not return requests for comment on this story.
Earlier this week, the congresswoman was robbed outside of a constituent event in South Philadelphia. According to local police, Ms. Scanlon was walking toward her car when she was approached by two men driving a dark-colored SUV.
Police say the men demanded the keys to Ms. Scanlon’s 2017 blue Acura MDX at gunpoint. The perpetrators fled with the car, which included the lawmaker’s purse, personal and government cellphones and identification.
The vehicle was found early Thursday morning approximately 45 miles from Philadelphia in neighboring Newark, Delaware. The Delaware State Police say they found the car with five suspects inside.
The individuals in question are now in police custody awaiting processing.
Ms. Scanlon’s carjacking is only the latest in a massive crime wave that has roiled the Philadelphia metropolitan region. This year alone, the city has seen 500 homicides — the highest number since 1990.
Local law enforcement has been slow to respond to the crisis. Philadelphia’s Democratic District Attorney, Larry Krasner, was widely panned for claiming earlier this month that “we don’t have a crisis of lawlessness, we don’t have a crisis of crime, we don’t have a crisis of violence.”
* Dave Boyer contributed to this story.