Fox Chase: On the Watch Years After A Tragedy

Town Watch President Steve Phillips (right) and Mike Bobby test of a walkie-talkie they use while on patrol.]

When Stephen Phillips saw a group of teens brutally beating Eddie Polec to death from his doorstep and no police responded to his 911 calls for help, he and a group of community members decided something needed to be done.

Town Watch President Steve Phillips (right) and Mike Bobby test of a walkie-talkie they use while on patrol.

“You’d rather be proactive than reactive,” Phillips, who raised three children in the neighborhood, said. “Our community was reactive to the tragedy.”

Polec, then 16, a Cardinal Dougherty High School student who lived in the neighborhood and son of a well-known crossing guard in the area, was beaten with bats by a mob of teens from a local suburb on the steps of St. Cecilia’s Church. Phillips said more than 30 calls were made to 911 during Polec’s beating from the area in a span of 20 minutes, but no police were dispatched to the scene until it was too late to save the teen.

“It was a major failure of the Philadelphia 911 system,” he recalled. “He [Polec] was literally an innocent bystander.”

Today, the Fox Chase Town Watch is one of the largest and most active town watches in Philadelphia, made famous by Polec’s November 1994 murder, which triggered its establishment. For the last nine years, Phillips has served as president of the organization, which is bolstered by a group of roughly 50 volunteers from the community.

“Town Watch is the eyes and ears,” Phillips explained. “Our goal is to help things [like Polec’s murder] not to happen.”Fox Chase Town Watch was partially inspired by Eddie Polec's brutal murder at St. Cecilia's Church in 1994.

Gerry Montgomery, a resident of Fox Chase since 1965 who raised three children in the area, lives across from Jeanes Hospital – Town Watch’s home base. He said he doesn’t know much about the organization, but feels safe in his community.

“I don’t think we’ve had any problems since the Eddie Polec incident,” Montgomery said. “I would say that has an effect that corrected the problem.”

Montgomery said the biggest change he’s seen over his five decades in Fox Chase is that younger families are moving to the suburbs more often.

“People have kids and they move out, then people move from other parts to this area,” he explained. “What changes is the fear of what people will bring with them.”

Phillips said he and a group of several volunteers patrol the neighborhood, which is bordered by Montgomery County on the north and west, Pennypack Park to the east and the Rhawnhurst section to the south, between the hours of 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

“We would’ve been there [for Polec],” he said. “We’ve had similar incidents over the years, like 15-year-old William Sheb who was beaten outside the [Fox Chase Recreation Center] by a couple of Mayfair youths.”

When volunteers and community members keep an eye out for changes and happenings in the community, Phillips said, the community is more likely to be safe and the organization can affect change.

“The men ride around at night, and they have their eyes out. They really do,” Colleen Cole, a mother of five children who lives in Fox Chase, said. “I have two teens who are out in the neighborhood, so I’m glad [the Town Watch is] around.”

In addition to patrolling, Phillips said he networks with officers from the Second and Seventh Philadelphia Police Districts and meets with local politicians, including State Rep. John Perzel, State Rep. Brendan Boyle, City Councilman Brian O’Neill and State Sen. Shirley Kitchen on a regular basis to keep the lines of communication open for the community.

“I met [new Philadelphia District Attorney] Seth Williams and had him in the community speaking,” Phillips said.own Watch member Mike Bobby unloads his graffiti removal kit from the trunk of his car.

The Fox Chase Town Watch was established as a non-profit organization and receives most of its funding from private donations by local businesses. Phillips said he works to keep the budget as low as possible, and the biggest annual expenditure other than supplies is the community’s “National Night Out” fair event in August.

“You can have all the money in the world,” Phillips said of keeping the Town Watch budget small. “But you really need to learn how to get your resources together and network. [For example], the city will give us paint to cover graffiti. If we learn to network and put people to work, we have something brewing.”

In addition to the Town Watch patrols, one member, Mike Bobby, works to remove graffiti in the area. Bobby and Phillips also report instances of graffiti they cannot remove themselves to larger city organizations for removal.

The Town Watch also has a discussion board on its Web site where community members can leave anonymous comments about anything from a neighbor with an eyesore car to loitering teens using drugs for volunteers to watch.

Phillips also works six days a week at a local post office, but he said he doesn’t mind the hours he spends each week working with the Town Watch and monitoring the hotline 24 hours a day on top of that.

“You can’t have an ego about it. A lot of town watches have gone under because of egos,” he said. “We just want to live in a safe community.”


  1. Eddie Polec’s grisly murder that November night back in 1994 was unfortunate…and preventable. Had the teenage girl from Abington not fabricated the rape story that provoked this horrific incident to begin with, and for the poor response on the part of the 9/11 dispatchers, this would not’ve happened, and Eddie would’ve lived to grow up, like most teenagers.

    What’s amazing is the strength of his family who, instead of exacting any type of revenge for the murder of Eddie, was the fact that they channelled their anger and grief into reforming Philadelphia’s 9/11 system and the responses, and into various Fox Chase Community crime watches, etc.

    I do not think that any of the teenagers who committed the horrific and fatal assault on Eddie Polec should go free, and neither should the girl who fabricated the rape story that provoked this whole horrific incident in the first place. I think that she should’ve been made to pay some sort of restitution to the family of Eddie Polec, not only by apologizing to them for having helped cause their son’s life to be taken so brutally in the first place, but to do some sort of community service to help pay for the family’s funereal and burial/crematorial expenses for Eddie.

  2. The fact that the guys who bludgeoned Eddie Polec to death got off too easy, but the fact that the girl who fabricated the rape story was equally disgraceful for at least two reasons:

    A) She helped cause Eddie Polec’s brutal beating death in the first place.

    B) Equally important, the girl in question who fabricated the rape story more than likely helped make it even tougher for any girl(s) or women who really do get raped to get people to believe them, and to obtain the emotional and moral support that (true) rape victims really need.

  3. The sick murderers should not only be walking our streets now. Cause the electric chair would of been a better route for them…..But they are all over social media, Humanity at its best. SickWorld.

  4. I don’t think that the death penalty is the answer, because a society that wishes to become civilized does not solve the problems of such heinous crimes by putting the perpetrators to death. A longtime, or possibly a lifetime jail term, in a maximum-security penitentiary, with no parole, would be the best way to deal with Eddie Polec’s murderers.

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