The unidentified man tried to abduct the girl Tuesday while she was walking to a South Philadelphia neighborhood store with her 2-year-old brother to buy some ice, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.
"The message here has to be very clear: Get this scum off our streets," Mayor Michael Nutter told reporters Wednesday night at police headquarters.
Surveillance video released by police shows the man stopping a white car along a street, watching the children pass and then getting out to follow them, the newspaper said. Video from another camera caught the man coming up behind the girl, picking her up and trying to carry her away. The girl is seen fighting to free herself only to have him try to grab her again before giving up and returning to his car and driving off.
Police Capt. John Darby said the girl told investigators her brother screamed "louder than anything she's ever heard before," helping to scare off the would-be abductor.
The man was described as Hispanic, in his 30s or 40s, 5 feet 9 to 6 feet tall, with a thin build, thin mustache and short, curly black hair, the Daily News said. He was wearing a short-sleeved black T-shirt and blue jeans.
His car was said to be a midsized white sedan, possibly a Nissan or Mitsubishi. Police said there was a dent on the driver's side front quarter panel and a black scuff on the driver's side rear bumper.
The incident unnerved people living in the neighborhood, KYW-TV, Philadelphia, reported.
"It's scary. It's making people nervous, making people think that they can't bring their kids outside, you know, and let them play outside by themselves, and that's not right," neighbor Kathleen McDowell told KYW.