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by Peter Moskos

December 12, 2008

Crack House

I first published this a year ago when nobody read my blog. It's worth a rehash.

#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.

9 comments:

Heidi G. said...

I recently read your book, Cop In The Hood, for my sociology class. I found it very interesting. I live in Towson and had no clue what really goes on in Baltimore, a mere 10-15 miles away. Thank you for your insider's perspective. This was a great book!

PCM said...

Thanks, Heidi. I'm glad you liked my book!

Anonymous said...

Yup this is soooo sooo acurate. I being the wife of a recovering addict I have had to pull my husband out of many scary places in Baltimore like this.

PCM said...

Good luck to you and your husband. I was scared to go in alone... and the place was empty... and I had a badge and a gun.

Aaron said...

Dude more power to you. God Bless and keep it up.

Anonymous said...

I live next door to one, maybe there is some interest in the social interactions of a drug addict but honestly, living next to such a place is like living next to the gate opening to hell. You have 2 choices -- be UTTERLY and COMPLETELY miserable nearly 24 hours a day, or seek to shut it down.

PCM said...

Yes. Junkies and a squated vacant would be a horrible next-door neighbor.

But how can you shut it down? Seems like the only thing you can do is tear it down.

erikte279 said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmgxIdSqeYM&feature=related


I was reading one of your post's on police using dolling out punishment of there own. I think this is a good example except I believe he should have required the man to more to earn his freedom.

drug rehab new york said...

I'd read your book to further look into the minds of these people, as I need to know where they're coming from.