A rash of heroin overdoses have become a common occurance in a local park recently.
According to sources, there have been at least three reported incidents of heroin overdose inside Loreto Park, which is generating great concern among the Morris Park community.
The apparent overdoses, which are believed to have all taken place inside the park over the last two weeks, claimed the lives of 21-year old Chris ‘Hood’ Morello and Michael Coscia, the former of whom was a Morris Park resident. The third overdose victim has not yet been identified, as of press time.
Morello, who passed away on Saturday, July 2 and attended nearby P.S. 83, was described as friendly and harmless but didn’t receive parental guidance from an early age, according to a former classmate.
“He wasn’t a bad kid by any means – he just went down the wrong path,” said Andrew Melillo, Morello’s classmate nearly a decade ago. “I hadn’t been in touch with him in recent years, but in the past I remember him being on the streets frequently at an early age, with his parents barely in the picture.”
Melillo, who said he was unsure of what drug Morello took to overdose, added that another former P.S. 83 classmate of his, Muhammad Ahmin, also overdosed on drugs two months ago after ingesting Xanax followed by alcohol, which led to seizures and ultimately led to his death.
“It’s a tough situation to be in – to be young and have a tough home life where the parents are barely involved. As we have seen, the consequences can be drastic,” he said.
Due to the increasing concern in the area, these incidents have caused residents to get proactive in searching for the drug dealers in the neighborhood who were responsible for these deaths.
“These incidents are very concerning to our community – and something needs to be done about it,” said Al D’Angelo, first vice-president of the Morris Park Community Association, who said that Loreto Park has been a drug scene for years, including minors smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol in the park.
“Our main task here and now is catching the ‘small fish’ who will lead us to the ‘big fish’ – and we know who these dealers are. It’s important that we continue to work closely with the 49th Precinct so we catch them and save our community,” D’angelo said.
Posters and flyers were displayed throughout the neighborhood in the aftermath of the deaths, which gave information on several drug dealers believed to be responsible for the distribution of heroin and other drugs in the community.
One flyer read that a potential suspect lives on Van Nest Avenue and that “he is to blame – and needs to be wiped out of the community forever.” The flyers were later removed by the 49th Precinct.
“I am very disturbed by these incidents that have occurred – it’s bringing down the community with every incident,” said Tony Signorile, president of the Morris Park Community Association, who added that he believes that a local resident across the street from P.S. 83 has been selling drugs from their first floor window.
“I encourage anybody with information to reach out to us so we can work with the 49th Precinct in catching those who have triggered these incidents.”
“It’s devastating that lives were taken from us because of heroin addiction,” said Senator Jeff Klein. “Tragically, in every corner of our state, heroin and opioid addictions are destroying lives,” Klein added.
A spokesperson for the 49th Precinct said, “the precinct is looking to ascertain some leads to identify the individuals distributing these drugs.”
On Saturday, July 9, a prayer vigil and impromptu memorial ceremony was held for Morello inside Loreto Park, where family members, friends and community members gathered to pay their respects.
A poster board with pictures, messages, flowers and balloons were placed on one of the park’s fences. as well as over 100 candles, which were arranged under the poster board.
According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Bronx had the second-highest rate of unintentional drug overdoses in 2013 behind Staten Island, with about 15 deaths per 100,000 residents.
The rate of unintentional overdoses in the Bronx decreased by 39%, from 20 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2006 to 12.3 deaths in 2010.
Since 2010, rates of unintentional drug overdoses in the Bronx increased to 15 deaths in 2013, according to DOH.
In 2012-2013, the neighborhoods of Hunts Point and Mott Haven had the highest rate of overdoses in the five boroughs, with 28.2 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to DOH.
In 2013, heroin was the most common drug involved in overdose deaths and contributed to 58% percent of overdose deaths among Bronx residents, according to DOH.
If you or anybody you know suffers from heroin or substance addiction, the Bronx provides multiple drug addiction treatment centers for patients, including Daytop Village Inc., located at 2614 Halperin Avenue, Pac Program of the Bronx, located at 1215 Stratford Avenue, Hunts Point Multi-Services Center, located at 785 Westchester Avenue, MARS Statewide Network, located at 804 E. 138th Street, Bronx TASC, located at 1020 Grand Concourse, Success Counseling Services, Inc., located at 1015 Ogden Avenue, Promesa, Inc., located at 1776 Clay Avenue, and Tri Center, Inc., located at 2488 Grand Concourse #401, among other Bronx locations.
Additional reporting contributed by Patrick Rocchio.