Fed up Kensington residents try Narcan bike patrols

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Many efforts are underway to address the opioid epidemic in Kensington but perhaps the most unusual is a resident-led mission called “Operation Save a Life.”

Moe Morrisette glides by a hand-painted wooden sign that seems ironic: “Hope Park.”

It’s at A and Indiana, ground zero of Philadelphia’s opioid epidemic, and there are no signs of hope apparent. Instead, a dozen or more men and women are openly using drugs—in the act of tying off their upper arms, poking needles into veins or sprawling semi-conscious on the grass. One young man is curled up, sitting motionless.

“Excuse me,” Morrisette calls out. “Is he okay?”

At first no one responds, but Morrisette is insistent.

“Just tap him, please,” he shouts, “Make sure he’s breathing.”

A woman nearby complies. The young man starts, looks up and slumps back into whatever reverie he was enjoying.

“Thank you,” calls Morrisette and pedals off.

Morrisette is on a bicycle, part of a patrol for Operation Save a Life, a volunteer mission he co-founded with his friend, Rich.

“We launched the program to train and to certify people to administer Narcan,” says Morrisette. “We are deploying teams of two on bicycles, armed with the Narcan, to save lives.” 

The opioid epidemic in Kensington has elicited many responses. The City’s all-hands Resilience Project has accomplished many of its goals but public use and its consequences persist, impacting the entire community so deeply, residents have taken their own measures.

Operation Save a Life is one of the newer and more unusual ones.

Its model of Narcan bike patrols is unconventional. Its structure is loose; there’s no set schedule for the patrols. It’s not affiliated with any formal organization though Morrisette says he’s in the process of getting 501c3 status.  He is a bit evasive about where he gets the Narcan kits.  

But he, Rich and other volunteers seem genuinely sincere about their desire to save lives and improve the neighborhood.

“If you come from this place, and you’ve been around here which I have for many years, and seeing what it turned into, you would want to do something about it,” says Morrisette.

He sports a grill on his upper teeth and a few heavy gold chains but he is the quiet, understated partner in the enterprise, the calm to Rich’s whirlwind. While Morrisette mans a “command center” in a converted bus outside his house, Rich walks the block, picking up syringes and exhorting users to get off the street and into treatment, but not medically-assisted treatment.

“What difference does it make, a drug’s a drug, no, cut it out,” says Rich. “The only way you’re going to stop it, you have to clear these people’s systems, period. Everything must stop.”

Rich has many strong opinions about how to handle the opioid epidemic. He adamantly opposes a safe injection site, proposed for the area but tied up in a federal case about its legality. He doesn’t even like Prevention Point, which provides sterile needles to users.

“Everything I’m picking up out here is stuff they actually gave these people, that’s what really turns my stomach,” he says, shaking the now-full sharps disposal box he’s been filling with discards found on the street. “You’re giving them the water, you’re giving them the thing to tie off with and you’re giving them the needle and then you tell them to go right outside. They’re not hiding and they’re doing it. The cops don’t care. I’m tired of seeing it. You can’t go to any other neighborhood and see this, nowhere. I don’t care where you go, nowhere, so why are they just letting it happen? You’re going to hand them a needle, starting handing everyone that wants to rob a bank a gun then.”

Rich does not see Operation Save a Life as an enabling intervention, as he does prevention point or a safe injection site. Yet, in a way they are a mobile version of what the safe injection site hopes to do: preventing overdoses from becoming fatal.

They say they saved nine people the very first day they went out.  

Their most famous rescue, though, came on a hot summer night when they were not on bikes but sitting on Morrisette’s steps.

“We were just enjoying the evening and somebody came up and told us somebody was around the corner dead and we went around the corner and sure enough, the person was overdosed,” Morrisette says.

Moe videotaped as they tried to bring him around and finally released Narcan into his nostril. The color returned to his face and he thanked them. They posted the video, terrifying and poignant, on their Facebook page. It has more than three million views. It’s easy to see why. The riveting drama that plays out daily in Kensington can be watched from a safe distance.

For Operation Save a Life, the only distance they measure is a three-mile loop through what they call the Red Zone, the area where illegal drugs are openly consumed. The territory’s lawlessness makes it feel inherently unsafe. The volunteers say, in fact, their presence, offering a bit more security, is a secondary part of the mission.

“It’s not just about saving lives,” says Dennis Payne, volunteer and neighbor, “It’s about saving the whole community.”

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Thousand rock out while running the streets of Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Thousands of runners filled the streets of Philadelphia this morning for the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon.

More than 12,000 people got to jam out to all kinds of music, while running the this year’s marathon, which kicked off on the Ben Franklin Parkway and looped throughout the city.

Vic Whitehead — who travel all the way from Suffolk, Virginia to compete — says hearing all the live music really made the difference for his performance.

“When you’re running through, there’s up’s and down’s, so you may be at a point where you are struggling, but then you get that music it kind of gives you that energy,” he said. “That’s why I love it.

Jose Cartagena says he came out to support his wife, and Whitehead. For someone who’s there just to cheer on the runners, Cartagena says, it’s good to have some music to rock out to.

“A lot of times when you’re at these races you have nothing to do, but wait for your runner,” he explained. “Having the entertainment is a great value. I love it. It keeps me motivated. So when you see your runner coming in, you’re there and you have that pep to cheer them in.”

This year marked the 42nd year for the race, which was formerly the Philadelphia Distance Run.

Twenty-seven-year-old Megan Price has cerebral palsy, but that did not stopping her taking part. Price’s father Jim wheeled her through Saturday’s run.

“It’s really special because she is a special person that needs a lot of help, and we love her,” he said with tears in his eyes.

The duo from Moorestown, New Jersey says they have run the Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago half marathons.

Price says when the races get tough, and it’s hard to keep on, he looks at his daughter for motivation.

“You just have to keep going, because Megan can’t do it so you do it for her, and those races are hard,” her father said.

This race is a little different for Megan and Jim who are doing it for his son, and her brother, who recently passed away.

“The family is here,” he said. “Lots of friends. It’s important to us.”

Price says for him, the race is a lot like life. It’s challenging, but he keeps on pushing.

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Police: Human remains discovered at Delaware baseball field

SMYRNA, Del. (KYW Newsradio) — An investigation is underway after police say a child’s remains were discovered Friday at a baseball field in Kent County, Delaware.

Authorities say it all began when officers were called around 4:30 Friday to the Little Lass Field, along Duck Creek Parkway, for a report of possible human remains.

On Saturday, the Smyra Police Department confirmed that there were indeed human remains, and the body is believed to child younger than 10-years-old.

Police have not said if the child died at the field, or if they were brought there.

The fields are home to the Smyrna Clayton Little Lass Softball, who took to Facebook Saturday with a post that read that the “league was deeply sadden and disturbed by this.”

The post goes on to say that they will continue to work with authorities.

Smyra police say both the Delaware Attorney General’s Office and the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office are assisting in this investigation.

Officials are also urging anyone with information, pertaining to this case, to contact investigators immediately.

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Why Restaurant Week is important to the Philadelphia economy

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Center City District Restaurant Week kicks off this week as thousands look to get a taste of Philly. But how does this annual event help the local economy?

Michelle Shannon with the Center City District says about 150,000 to 180,000 diners typically come out for restaurant week, and that translates to millions of dollars to the local economy.

“The dollars to the restaurant, the subsequent shopping or visits to cultural institutions, transportation,” she explained.

Shannon says this is also a way for restaurants to attract new customers.

“Because the price point kind of lowers the resistance to, ‘What if I go out and I try something new and I don’t like it and I’ve just spent $200,’” she said.  “At $35 a person, it lowers the bar to take that chance.”

The growth of restaurant week from 33 to now 126, Shannon says, is an indication of the growth in the Philadelphia restaurant scene in general. 

“And you can really make a name for yourself, here,” she added.

The Center City District Restaurant Week runs through September 27.

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Chaput forecasts many more church closings, parish mergers

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia’s archbishop concedes a significant number of Catholic Church closings and parish consolidations are inevitable in the not-too-distant future because of rapidly declining numbers of people in the pews.

Speaking candidly at a recent forum, largely attended by men studying to become priests at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said the future of many Catholic parishes in Philadelphia is not bright.

“We have more than 200 parishes in the archdiocese,” he said. “When we consider our count – the people who actually go to church – we need about a hundred. So if we actually did that we would have half the number of parishes that we have today.”

Chaput said the latest figures show about 18% of Catholics in the archdiocese now attend Mass on the weekend.

He said since he’s been archbishop for nearly eight years, he has closed or merged more than 70 parishes.

And while the closings and mergers have saved money, some Catholics have walked away because of their attachment to a particular church or parish.

He says the future of the church in the archdiocese is going to look different.

“I think the answer to the future are small, Christian communities, maybe ban together in what we call parishes,” Chaput said. “But nonetheless, we need small Christian communities.”

Chaput turns 75 later this month and is required to submit his resignation to Pope Francis. That letter begins the start of a search for a new archbishop.

Chaput said he will leave decisions on the future of the archdiocese to his successor.

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Center City District preps for thousands on restaurant week

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Center City District Restaurant Week kicks off this week as thousands look to get a taste of Philly. But how does this annual event help the local economy?

Michelle Shannon with the Center City District says about 150,000 to 180,000 diners typically come out for restaurant week, and that translates to millions of dollars to the local economy.

“The dollars to the restaurant, the subsequent shopping or visits to cultural institutions, transportation,” she explained.

Shannon says this is also a way for restaurants to attract new customers.

“Because the price point kind of lowers the resistance to, ‘What if I go out and I try something new and I don’t like it and I’ve just spent $200,’” she said.  “At $35 a person, it lowers the bar to take that chance.”

The growth of restaurant week from 33 to now 126, Shannon says, is an indication of the growth in the Philadelphia restaurant scene in general. 

“And you can really make a name for yourself, here,” she added.

The Center City District Restaurant Week runs through September 27.

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Conference looks to level the field for medical marijuana

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A conference to promote equity in the emerging cannabis industry will meet in Philadelphia for the second time, later this month, and it has the support of both city and state officials.

State Sen. Sharif Street says medical marijuana is creating once-in-a-generation opportunities and he wants to make sure everyone in the Commonwealth has an equal share in them.

“We want to make sure that communities of color, small businesses, women-owned businesses, disadvantaged businesses, veterans, disabled and others have an opportunity to participate,” he said.

So he is throwing his weight behind the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunities, or DACO’s, conference scheduled for September 27 and 28 at Temple University’s medical school.

Co-founder Cherron Perry-Thomas says there will be exhibitors and speakers on a range of topics.

“DACO aims to open the dialogue in the areas of education, wellness, social justice, policy, entrepreneurship and job development,” she said.

Mayor Kenney also gave his stamp of approval, though he says better equity would be achieved by legalizing all marijuana use.

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Children, firefighters injured in Wildwood, NJ deck collapse

WILDWOOD, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — A multi-level deck collapsed in Wildwood, N.J. Saturday evening, injuring at least 21 people including children and firefighters, authorities said. 

Broken beams, railings, and rubble could be seen on the ground, and neighbors described the injured being removed from the scene on stretchers. 

1 patient was rushed by helicopter to a trauma center. Another was taken by ambulance to the hospital to be treated for traumatic injuries, authorities said. 11 were treated and released, and 8 were still being evaluated Saturday night. 

It is unclear what caused the deck on Baker Ave. to collapse. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available. 

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Philly super heroes show case their skills to raise money

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Some first responders from around our region spent Saturday afternoon showing off their skills and raising money at the 65th annual Hero Thrill Show.

The Philadelphia Fire Department conducted safety demos and the elite Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team show cased their moves to the delight of the crowd gathered in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center.

Nine-year-old Jack Dolly of Riddley Park was enjoying the day.

“I liked the motorcycles that rode through here and did a bunch of laps that was pretty cool,” he said.

Reporter: “What did you think of the Firefighter demonstration and EMS?” 

“That was really cool! They showed how to put out a fire in front of all of these people that was really cool,” he said.

The police canine unit was also a crowd pleaser, and even the Phillie Phanatic stopped by.

Money raised at the Hero Thrill goes to educational opportunities for the families of diseased members of the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments. 

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Bucks County gets another tool to fight drug trafficking

BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Bucks County has another tool to help fight drug trafficking.

Bucks County is one of 13 counties across the country that has joined the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

“This will serve as a force multiplier for us,” said District Attorney Matt Weintraub.

He says Bucks County joins the other counties in southeastern Pennsylvania.

“As well as a swath of counties in New Jersey all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, and between the eight of us we’re very powerful allies in this war against drug trafficking,” he said.

One example Weintraub gives is if, without the HIDTA designation, if they were trying to track down a drug supplier and it led them to New Jersey or New York.

“We would be limited we would have stop our investigation at the border but now with the HIDTA designation that give us not only the ability to continue our investigation but to utilize those far reaching resources, the intelligence that other agencies that are HIDTA designated might have,” he said.

Along with, Weintraub says the manpower, training and technology.

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Sen. Warren makes news in Philly — without even showing up

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren made news in Philadelphia, this week.  

First, Warren made an unconventional endorsement, supporting third party candidate Kenra Brooks for the City Council at large race.  

Democratic Party leaders thought it was a bad idea. Mayor Jim Kenney says she has every right to endorse who she wants, but it certainly doesn’t help her party.

“Kendra’s a good person,” the mayor told KYW Newsradio. “It’s not like she’s endorsing someone that’s not a good person. It’s just that it impacts the democratic field, potentially, and national candidates should maybe think about how it impacts the local democrats.”

Governor Ed Rendell didn’t mind the endorsement, but he had a big problem with Warren’s criticism of Joe Biden for accepting campaign contributions from big donors at a fundraiser in Philadelphia.

Rendell wrote an op-ed, at the request of the Washington Post, calling her a hypocrite.

“About 20 of the people who attended the Biden event, ten months before had attended fundraisers Elizabeth Warren had in Philadelphia,” he said. “So that was pretty hypocritical.

Rendell adds he likes Warren and if she wins the nomination, he’ll work hard for her.

“As I said in the op-ed piece, ‘Elizabeth, there’s some swanky restaurants in Philadelphia that you haven’t seen yet.’”

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Full moon marks prominent Asian holiday, celebration

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Families from around our region will be gathering for tonight’s full moon, to celebrate a prominent Asian holiday.

On Saturday, Philadelphia Chinatown will play host to the annual mid-Autumn festival celebration.

Organizer Alice Vuong says this festival is one of the two big Chinese celebrations in Chinatown.

“Well, in Philadelphia we have the Mid-Autumn Festival, and then we also have the Chinese New Year,” she explained.

Wei Chen is with Asian Americans United.

“Those people who celebrate the lunar calendar, we believe the Mid-Autumn Festival is a day that the nature is showing the full moon as a symbolism for us to show that everybody comes back together to celebrate a reunion and also to celebrate the harvest because it’s autumn,” he said.

And that’s why, Vuong explains, this is a holiday that’s very closely associated with nature

“Folks gather under a full moon typically and they celebrate the harvest, being together and also the different folk stories that are associated with the mid-autumn festival itself,” she said.

In celebration of the full moon, it’s also customary this time of the year to eat round cakes known as “moon cakes.” 

The Chinatown festival and celebration will run from noon – 8 p.m. on Saturday.

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Terror Behind the Walls fans get tattoos ahead of opening

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — To mark the opening of one of Philly’s most hallowed Halloween attractions, dozens of mega fans marked themselves in preparation.

More than 100 people took advantage of discounted Terror Behind the Walls-themed tattoos on Friday the 13th at Eastern State Penitentiary.

Fourteen tattoo artists took over Terror Behind the Walls’ newly renovated makeup room, where they offered tats like skulls, ghouls, gargoyles and zombie nurses for $150 to $250.

The event created buzz ahead of the haunted house’s 2019 season, which begins Sept. 20.

At the abandoned prison-turned-museum in Fairmount, Casey Paul was able to get a tattoo, which were offered as first-come, first-served. She plays a zombie nurse in the haunted attraction, and she wanted to make it a bigger part of her life.

“She is on me forever,” she said. “I have been officially tattooed with this character. I will keep her with me always, not only inside, but on the back of my forearm as well.” 

While some may find her tattoo a bit unusual, Paul said it speaks to the caliber of the attraction.

“It speaks very highly of our performance, of our show, that people love Terror Behind the Walls enough to get it tattooed on them forever,” she added.

The haunted house’s two iconic smoke-breathing gargoyles, named Frank and Carson, will also return this year, but they won’t be perched on top of the entrance gate as usual. Instead, they’ll be on the ground so you can take selfies with them.

Terror Behind the Walls features six spooky attractions in one big haunted house — or prison, in this case — including a creepy infirmary, a machine shop, a “quarantine” with dark creatures, and whatever a “blood yard” is.

It runs through Nov. 9.

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Kenney wants public input on police commissioner search

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is looking for his next police commissioner and he says he wants the public’s help in making a choice.

The city has engaged the Police Executive Research Forum to find qualified candidates in and outside the department, and hone the interview process. 

Managing director Brian Abernathy says the interviews themselves will be private, but they’ll be informed by opinions that citizens share.

“We have launched a survey that is available online and on paper to gather the public’s feedback on what issues they think are most important, on what characteristics the next commissioner should have and to provide any other feedback they think is important for us to consider in our search.”

You can find the link to the survey by clicking here.

Abernathy says the city hopes to name a new commissioner by the end of the calendar year.

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2 in guns-for-meth scheme each get at least decade in prison

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — A man and woman who were caught trading guns for meth will each spend at least the next decade in prison. 

Prosecutor Tom Gannon said Justin Burks, 49, pleaded guilty to stealing dozens of guns from his dying father and illegally selling some of them and trading others for methamphetamine.

“Those firearms ended up in a variety of locations, including a methamphetamine house in New Jersey,” said Gannon.

He noted that meth makes people hyper, often leading to violence.

“The potential for the combination of methamphetamine and guns is horrifying,” he added.

Burks has been sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison under mandatory minimums defined by a law named after Brad Fox, the Plymouth Township police officer who was shot and killed seven years ago by a man who wasn’t allowed to have a gun.

Of the more than 20 guns that were stolen, authorities say they’ve recovered all but one.

Seven of the guns, Gannon said, were sold to 30-year-old Lacey Williams of Green Lane. She’ll spend 11 to 22 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to the gun charges, as well as endangering the welfare of a child. 

Related: Chesco DA: Man arrested for selling crystal meth, fentanyl-laced heroin to informant

She gave birth to a child in a hotel room by herself. By the time she called for help, the baby had died. She told the judge during her plea that she knew the baby would test positive for meth and would be taken away from her if she went to a hospital.

Gannon credits Warminster Township Detective John Schlotter for tracking down and recovering all but one of the stolen guns. 

Investigators say Burks’ father my have had unregistered guns, and there’s no way to know how many of those may still be on the streets.

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