That suspect was identified by police Friday night as 23-year-old Lakim McDonald.
Police say around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, a 28-year-old woman had left her car running on the 1000 block of Van Kirk Street in Summerdale to quickly visit a friend; her two children were in the backseat.
"She was just going to visit her friend for a couple seconds according to her. When she was walking to the front door to visit her friend, someone jumped into her vehicle," Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said.
Police say McDonald allegedly stole the car with the 1-year-old and 6-year-old inside.
The mother called 911 immediately and gave police a detailed description of her white 2010 Toyota Camry.
The aviation unit searched from the sky. Officers soon spotted the Camry on Sellers Street, about a mile away from where it was taken.
We didn't know if the kids were in the car or not at that very moment, but we certainly weren't going to lose sight of that vehicle as best we could because we wanted to recover the kids," said Philadelphia Police Capt. Sekou Kinebrew. "We didn't know where they were at the time we spotted the vehicle."
Officers attempted to pull over the car, but he fled. The police helicopter tracked the car for two miles.
"We made sure ground units didn't chase it because we didn't want the vehicle to get involved in an auto accident running from police," Small said.
At Castor and Wyoming, the car struck a curb and broke down.
Ground units were notified and converged. The car was surrounded. An officer approached the vehicle with a gun drawn and pulled the suspect out of the front seat and onto the ground where police put him in handcuffs.
Officers checked the car for the children, but McDonald told them he had dropped them off on the 4700 block of Darrah St.
Someone there called 911 to report that two children were found in the street. They weren't harmed and were reunited with their mother before going to Special Victims Unit to give a statement.
Police say McDonald appeared to be impaired.
"Had he gotten involved in an auto accident things could have been a lot worse with a 1-year-old and 6-year-old in the backseat," Small said.
McDonald faces numerous charges, including theft of a vehicle and endangering the welfare of children.