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The Nose

Scarey Street

Posted 2/26/2003

The Big One, as the President's Day snowstorm has been dubbed, temporarily closed down much of the city's economy. But it gave a mammoth boost to the illegal drug trade, which was left largely unencumbered by its only usual constraint: police enforcement. As the 311 operator explained when the Nose called to report open drug dealing on Monday, Feb. 17, police were in "stationary positions" during the storm--manned patrol cars were parked in fixed spots and were unlikely to respond to such calls. The effect of nonenforcement was dramatic. Along West Baltimore's South Carey Street, it caused a four-block stretch to become largely impassable for the duration of the storm and for days afterward. The traffic jam was due less to the mounting snow than to the endless carloads of frenzied addicts pulling over to buy drugs from scores of dealers boldly hawking Section 8. The term normally refers to low-income housing vouchers, but in this case, the Nose learned, it is the street name for the latest brand of heroin. Scarey Street, as this stretch of drug-infested asphalt is called by locals, lived up to its name during the storm.

The lack of police enforcement was a windfall for the dealers, but it also brought into clear focus the nature of the Scarey Street drug trade. All of the dealers are African-American, and the buyers are largely white. Traffickers won't allow their dealers to use drugs, even if they could afford them--it's bad for business. Thus, the corner boyz remain clear-eyed and in control of the trade.

More than a few of the addicts in the cars, meanwhile, look like folks the Nose might see at local nightclubs--hipsters with a habit, people with options and means who have made bad choices in life. White druggies drive the Scarey Street drug market--and they'll drive there to get their fix even during the biggest snowstorm in Baltimore history.

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