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by Peter Moskos

October 9, 2007

Baltimore crack house

#1) 1900 Block of E Eager. 1906 E Eager is the third house (with awning) from Mr. George's corner laundromat. Two short blocks North of Johns Hopkins Hospital, this corner (Wolfe and Eager) is one of the "hottest" (but hardly the only) drug corners in the neighborhood, heroin and crack are sold around the clock, rain or shine. Most of the customers are locals, but a conspicuous minority of whites drive in from the poor suburbs looking for the purer heroin found in the ghetto. This neighborhood, built around the turn of the century and featuring typical Baltimore rowhomes, formstone, and marble stoops, was all white until the 1950s, middle class until the 70s and 80s, now it is mostly vacant, all black, and very poor. Hopkins and city own most of the property. Hopkins has since torn down most of this area.

#2) The corner looks deserted. It is just 7 in the morning. But a few moments earlier, there were dozens of people roaming about. But a funny thing happens when you part a police car in the middle of the intersection, turn off the motor (otherwise the picture is blurry), and take a picture. People scatter. Note how everybody is walking away. I didn’t take in personally.

#3) Approaching the rear of 1906 E Eager from N Chapel St. I was looking for a location to observe drug sailes on the corner and out of one house in particular.

#4) Most vacants are boarded up to prevent junkies from entering, or filled with too much trash and damage to let one safely enter. The Rear entrance of 1906 E Eager is wide open. The first, time, on official police business, I went in alone. The second time, to take pictures, I brought along a partner, just to be safe.

#5) The rear room on the first floor is what used to be the kitchen. In the Northeast corner are old appliances, partially stripped and peeling lead paint, and remnants of alpine wallpaper.

#6) Another view of the alpine wallpaper

#7) Looking Southwest in the kitchen, a few more appliances.

#8) The Southeast corner of the kitchen. The iron stove top grates have long been sold for scrap. Almost all the metal has been.

#9) The front room is the living room. A TV and couch remain. Makes me think the home was occupied into the 1990s. The front door is on the right. It’s interesting to me that a big color TV, once somebody’s prized possession, is no longer worth anything.

#10) The front door is on the left. Vivid woodland wallpaper remains.

#11) Looking up the staircase between the rooms. One of the stairs is rotted through, but the rest are in pretty good shape. This is a typical staircase for a rowhome. It’s horrible for police. Often there’s no handrail, and you can easily be pushed down. At the top, suspects could be in either or both directions. They don’t teach you about this in the police academy.

#12) 2nd floor front room. Nice windows for surveillance of the dealers katty-corner across Wolfe St. Otherwise trash, some drug paraphernalia, a mattress against the wall, two pairs of shoes, and a nicely patterned linoleum floor remain.

#13) Looking East in the upstairs front room. A nice old heating grate, removed from the wall, hasn’t been taken to sell for scrap. A small water bottle (nicely labeled "water") is on the floor. This water would be mixed with heroin and heated with lighter in a metal bottle cap from a 40oz bottle of malt liquor. The mixture is then injected. The only thing is these pictures I manipulated is the water bottle. I turned it so I could photograph the word, “water.” I love how it’s neatly labeled.

#14) Rear room second floor. View looking rear from the stairs. Two layers of floor cover are visible, along with purple latex gloves, and a black tourniquet to make veins bulge for easier injection. An empty container of cornstarch is on the chair. Cornstarch can be put into empty crack vials and repackaged as “burn,” or fake drugs to sell for a quick buck, mostly to whites coming into the neighborhood. Some of these whites then call the police and tell us they were robbed (always of $10 or $20). They don’t get much sympathy. Locals would know not to buy from local junkies. But selling burn is not without risk as selling burn to the wrong person can get you beat up or killed.

#15) Looking towards the front in the rear room. Mirrors and black pride posters increase the positivity and create a much nicer overall environment. Tupac, Goodie Mob, and Q-Tip. An almost empty bottle of Pepto Bismal lies on the ground, showing that indigestion can strike anyone.

#16) A poster and broken clock on one wall is just of above the bottles of piss and cans of shit neatly kept in the corner (unfortunately my partner knocked over that board you see on the lower right corner, tipping everything over. It smelled really rank after that.)

#17) A 2000 Sears poster celebrating Black History claiming it's not just for February anymore: “Every family has a history. We celebrate yours every day, every year.”

#18) Bottles of piss sit in old malt liquor bottles. Next to it is a free parenting magazine and a toy box. My partner accidentally knocked the loose door on to the bottles of human waste. This spilled a lot of piss. We left the place worse than we found it. This wasn’t low-impact policing. Sorry.

#19) Another view of the main lounge and work area. Given the conditions, this is not where serious drug dealers do their work. This is a place for addicts to shoot up, relax, and scheme how to come up with their next $10 hit.

#20) A few chairs are set around a collection of empty crack vials. There are also more shoes. Why all the shoes?

#21) Looking closer, there are dozens of empty crack vials. Every color of the rainbow. The legal use for these vials in for perfumes and oils. The color of the cap on the vial often becomes a sort of brand name: red tops, blacks tops, or orange tops. Other good brand names: Uptown, Bodybag, Capone, and the more generic Ready Rock. Also on the floor are candles, cigarette butts, lighters (lots of them), tin foil, and bottle caps. Heroin and coke is an ever popular mix. John Belushi overdosed on it. Sugar, in the form of candy bars and tasty cakes can take some of the edge of the beginnings of heroin withdrawal.

Notice that the cup being used as an ashtray is standing and in use. The shoes are lined up. Paper is on the floor. In this disorder, there is order. But it’s almost inevitable that at some point in time they’ll burn the place down. And when that happens, you don’t want to be the neighbor next door.

These pictures were taken in early 2001.


al said...

we need to create more jobs in our ghetto communities. stop the dam crack. give these abandon houses away for $1 buck and you would be amazed to see the turn around. there wouldn't be a need for some many cops who don't have much to do any.

Anonymous said...

the goverment and state need to get together and start a program that encourages community growth. give grants out to low income families to buy and fix up these houses. stop letting these scum bag landlords who live in mansions buy them for nothing. the hell with good credit bad credit. this is why all the immigrants are wealthier that us. is because our goverments so smart that there stupid. now we have to beg for gas and oil. ain't that a bitch. the richest nation on earth kissing ass.

PCM said...

You both have good points. Though I think more immigrants are part of the solution to saving Baltimore. Just like immigrants helped New York, where 4 in 10 are foreign born.

Home owners take better care of their home than renters or landlords. And since there are empty homes to spare in the Eastern District (at least West of Luzerne). I too don't understand why more homes couldn't be given to responsible renters. It wouldn't take a lot of money. And it could do a world of good.

I also don't understand why the dollar home program isn't in effect. If I'm not mistaken, Stirling Street (by old town mall) was a dollar-home block in the 1970s. And it's quite nice today.

But don't forget, you had to have money to invest to get a dollar home. So they weren't really just being given away.

There's something to be said for just giving homes away. It's better than tearing them down. Though what's a simple rowhome cost now in East Baltimore? Seems like the city or state or (God forbid) the Federal Government could step in with some money to back good people with otherwise bad credit.

No matter, I agree it's a horrible for a nation as rich as ours to let these problems fester. I think there's just no will. And that's the real shame.

PCM said...

Al, let me ask you something: how do you propose we "stop the damn crack"? Because I was there trying to stop the crack. It's still there. I don't think it can be stopped.

Wouldn't it make more sense to regulate and control the distribution of cocaine rather than having it in the hands of yo-boys on the corner?

I'm not saying crack and heroin are good. They're not. But since we already got the drugs, wouldn't it be better to get rid of drug dealers?

Anonymous said...

First, I would like to say that I'm definately an advocater for drug legalization. Kids in the city could buy heroin faster than they could walk in a store and buy cigarettes. Second, it would be beneficial to find a way to break the chain. What I mean is that it's a viscous cycle- the parents get addicted, the children are left unattended, they get their misinformation from their friends, they have no guidance and just end up repeating the cycle. Somewhere someone has to help break the chain.

PCM said...

Preach on, my friend.

tex said...

My ex husband goes to this part of town to buy and use crack. He drives a white pickup with New York tags. The tags are probably not even licensed to that truck. He is 59 years old with white hair. short and fat and should know better. His lack of getting help for this addiction hurts the community and his family and he is smug about it. Blames it on anyone else and everyone else. I hope one day he gets caught. this is for you David!

PCM said...


Anonymous said...

Shockingly vivid...

Anonymous said...

I dig how their is a newspaper on the ground that reads "SPEAK OF THE DEVIL" on a frontpage.

PCM said...

Ha! I never noticed that.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Baltimore for 10 years and I understand these pics far to well. A band I was in used to rehearse in SOWEBO and the town was really on its way out back in 1999. About the only business left was THE CULTURED PEARL mex restaurant. Great food actually, but it stood no chance. I remember the police being real nice and even letting us have a few shows with our bands as long as we didn't play too late. But sure enough, one night a car rolled up, two guys got out(one stayed in car) they ran in side the place, then proceeded to rob as many people as they could at gunpoint before pistol whippin' a few (in the face) before leaving in what later turned out to be a "stolen" car. A few years after this I became a heroin addict myself. I cleaned up 7 years ago. I must say that after being down in some of these "holes" that I really got a good education on how and why these people were doing and selling drugs. Not to mention, in some of the more "professional" drug shops, the sellers would even look after me ,"the bald white-boy", most of the time(s).

Anonymous said...

I have left a few comments on here but I just noticed that you have a book for sale. WOW, I gotta pick it up.Fantastic!