Annual Tree Recycling Program is Here to Make Clean-Up Easy

It’s official: the holiday season is over. Thankfully, the Philadelphia Streets Department is offering a Christmas tree recycling program to assist with decoration clean-up.

Philly residents are encouraged to drop their trees off at any one of Philadelphia’s 23 pick-up locations between Jan. 10 or Jan. 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The National Christmas Tree Association offers a variety of ideas for tree recycling at home, although they may be best suited for the experienced gardener.

“A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden,” according to the National Christmas Tree Association. “If you have a neighbor with a chipper, see if he will chip it for you.”

Additionally the leftover trees make good goat snacks. So, if you happen to have a few goats, recycling the trees into tasty treats may be a viable option.

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2 Masked Gunmen Hold Up 8 Convenience Stores in 4 Weeks: Police

Police suspect that two men are behind eight armed robberies that occured at various convenience stores throughout North Philadelphia in a one month span.

The masked gunmen entered New Life Food Market, located at 2101 York St., on Nov. 15 and demanded money and cigarettes from the store clerk before fleeing the scene, authorities said.

Four days later, the suspects hit another store, North 19th Grocery at 1821 N. 19th St., and took off with a .40 caliber handgun, along with cash and cigarettes, police said.

The pair allegedly repeated the crime at least six other times, hitting Jaer Grocery at 1262 N. 29th St. on Nov. 18; Perelta Grocery at 2938 Oxford St. on Nov. 26; Rodriquez Grocery Store at 1350 N. 29th St. on Dec. 9; Karen Mini Market at 1400 N. 30th St. on Dec. 12; Torres Grocery at 1900 Ringgold St. on Dec. 17; and B & R Grocery at 2601 N. 23rd St. on Dec. 18, officials said.

A dark-colored late model Ford Taurus was spotted circling B & R Grocery prior to the Dec. 18 robbery, investigators said.

Surveillance video shows the suspects covering their faces, but they are both described as roughly 20 years old wearing black hoodies.

One suspect is estimated to be approximately 5-feet 9-inches to 5-feet 11-inches tall with a thin build, and wearing black and oragnge track pants with reflective trim, a black Nike hooded sweatshirt and sneakers.  Investigators describe the second man as 5-feet 11-inches to 6-feet 1-inch tall with a stocky build, wearing a black Nike zip-up hooded sweatshirt, capri-length jeans and sneakers.

Police urge the public to avoid confronting the suspects. If anyone has information on the men’s identities or the robberies, they can contact police at 215-686-8477.

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When Domestic Stories Make Headlines, Other Victims Get Wary of Seeking Help

When domestic abuse stories hit the front page, survivors and victims of domestic violence are forced to face their nightmares. The impact of Bradley Stone’s killing spree, and stories similar to it, can make people wonder whether it’s worth it to step forward and report their abusers.

“I think it reaffirms every nightmare they have,” said Maria Macaluso, who works with the Women’s Center of Montgomery County. “It’s their worst reality come to life. It has a dampening effect on what they are willing to do. After these things we have to talk to people in a vulnerable place.”

Macaluso said case workers started planning Monday as soon as they heard Stone shot his ex-wife and killed five of her family members in a pre-dawn rampage through Montgomery County. Domestic abuse victims who use the center’s services began questioning whether working to escape their dangerous situation was worth the potential for their abuser to lose control.

“As soon as the story was breaking [we had] people who have been working with us start calling, concerned about their safety in their situation,” said Macaluso. “It was clear very early on that it was domestic violence.”

Most domestic violence victims do not report their abusers. Only about a quarter of physical assaults and half of stalking cases get reported to police, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Faced with the fear of even more danger by aggressors and abusers, when domestic abuse stories become headlines, victims tend to become hesitant about the idea police can protect them.

“We took extra precautions for families within our shelter; we had everyone stay in,” said Ifeoma Aduba of A Women’s Place in Doylestown. “The safest thing to do in the moment was to stay off the streets away from any threats and keep out of the way of any first responders doing their job.”

The National Domestic Violence Hotline also sees an increase in calls during the winter season, but claims the role of the news in domestic abuse cases can be positive.

“Having the conversation about domestic violence in the media allows victims to know where to get help,” said Cameka Crawford of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “It also helps family members or friends of people experiencing domestic violence know where to get help.”

While there is a theory that reports increase during the holiday season, Macaluso reports that the Women’s Center of Montgomery County sees a drop in reports.

“There are different triggers for different people. The abuser loses their job, they’re taking jobs, the woman gets pregnant — those kind of things set people off more than holiday things.”

Aduba reports a similar issue at A Women’s Place. “Some years we see a drop in people looking for services — working to ‘keep the peace’ for the sake of their kids and not have that disruption in their family life,” she explained.

“The thing that we try to do with people we are working with is try to validate the fear they are feeling,” said Aduba. “It’s completely understandable that you would watch what occurred [Tuesday] and be unnerved by it.”

If you are in an abusive relationship, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

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Real-Life Lady Grinch Arrested at New Jersey Wawa: Police

A real-life Grinch was arrested after allegedly plucking the holiday cheer from New Jerseyans’ yards.

Jeanette P. Montanez was tracked down to a Wawa in Gloucester Township after quiet onlookers said they saw her steal Christmas decorations from two homes on the 400 block of Dearborne Avenue in Blackwood, New Jersey.

A concerned community member saw the holiday buzzkill and was able to partially identify her vehicle, leading police to her arrest.

The stolen decorations, and the accompanying holiday cheer, were returned to their rightful owners.

Montanez was charged with two counts of theft and two counts of criminal attempt.

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Beach Erosion Puts South Jersey Residents on Edge

Almost two years after Superstorm Sandy washed away huge parts of New Jersey’s shoreline, Strathmere beachfront residents fear their homes are in danger from recent beach erosion.

“Once the ocean takes our homes, it will take the town of Strathmere with it too,” said John Monaghan, a Strathmere resident. “The pathway to [Corson’s Inlet State Park] is closed because it’s now a 14-foot cliff; it’s eroding so fast we are in shock, the waves today are frightening.”

Intense waves have washed away sand that served as a barrier to protective boulders and steel walls.

Many Jersey Shore towns, including Strathmere, replenish their beaches each year. Strathmere is receiving three times more sand this year than it did in 2012, according to Shore News Today.

Corson’s Inlet State Park and Bird Sanctuary in Strathmere, established in 1969, was significantly damaged by ocean waves in the past year. The scenic park once served as a popular recreational site for hiking, fishing, crabbing, boating and sunbathing.

“We, the beachfront residents, bonded together and personally paid close to a million dollars to have a 30-foot steel break-wall installed at the edge of all of our waterfront properties, mostly under the sand,” Monaghan added. “The wall is now exposed; the sand is washing away from it and that’s really bad news.”

Corson’s Inlet State Park entrance is closed for now, but permanent changes, like the seawall rock jetties in Avalon and Cape May that were constructed after Superstorm Sandy, could reverse the damage. Officials in New Jersey report they do not have sufficient funds to build permanent barriers.

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