City officials defended the security of city recreation centers Tuesday morning, after four teen boys allegedly gang-raped a 12-year-old girl Monday night in a secluded third-floor stairwell at the Francis Myers Recreation Center in Kingsessing.
A volunteer who saw boys sprinting from the unused stairwell about 7:30 p.m. went to investigate and found the battered girl there, said Capt. John Darby of the special victims unit. The girl did not know her attackers, who lured her to the stairwell with conversation, Darby added.
"What started out as pretty benign contact really deteriorated," Darby said.
The center has a "drop-in" component, which doesn't require participants to register or document their names anywhere, posing a challenge for investigators trying to identify the assailants, police said. But Darby said investigators have some leads.
Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison said officials would assess all facilities to ensure they're safe. But he said supervision wasn't a problem at Francis Myers. Three staffers and "a number of" adult volunteers supervised about 30 kids on the basketball courts, a computer room and a game room on the first floor when the attack unfolded upstairs. Another 25 adults were participating in a line-dancing program, also on the first floor.
"This was a crime of opportunity. You can have 20 people (supervising) on a site, but if the opportunity presents itself, someone will take it," Gillison said, adding that authorities already had planned to put security cameras in at Francis Myers. Monday's attack will fast-track those cameras, he added.
Parents must teach their children better, he railed.
"We need our kids, our parents to do what's right. It is unacceptable. We have to change these behaviors. Enough is enough. The community has to do more than just idly sit by," Gillison said.
The Francis Myers center is one of 150 recreation centers in Philly.
Anyone with tips or information about the incident can call special-victims investigators at (215) 685-3251, -3252 or -3253.