The Crack Is Thisaway. Deals!
July 8, 2008 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Very recently, this week or so, a crackhouse moved in next door to my apartment. My neighbourhood is otherwise quite nice. I have nice neighbours. All the houses are well-kept. It's a lower-middle class neighbourhood. We live in an apartment in the top floor of a two-story home. What should we do?

I'm wondering what kind of things I can do besides call the cops? Last night some pimp-looking guy got his head bashed on the curb multiple times. I'm wondering if some sort of neighbourhood response is in order? When something like that happens, try and get as many people out of their houses watching it and yelling stop, or something like that.

But, I don't want to be a target.

posted by radgardener to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can't you place an anonymous call to the police?
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:06 AM on July 8, 2008

Just call the cops. Really.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:13 AM on July 8, 2008

Calling the Police means that the crackhouse will get shut down in about 6 months. They already know about it by now, but they won't get anything accomplished for at least that long.

I'm willing to accept it'll take a while to get rid of it, but I'd like some suggestions for constructive things I can do in the mean time, because I refuse to feel helpless in this kind of situation.

Although I might be.
posted by radgardener at 7:15 AM on July 8, 2008

Is it owner occupied?
posted by jerseygirl at 8:00 AM on July 8, 2008

We had this problem with the apartment building across the street. Cops definitely knew about it, as there were constant fights, arrests, screaming, fires, you name it. They took care of each problem individually as it occurred. So we contacted the alderman's office and he had us create a block club to discuss both how we should behave to protect ourselves and our kids, and to generate a more useful response from the authorities. The block club also got the local beat office aware of the problem, but frankly, the cops were not that sympathetic to the middle class home owners.

The alderman on the other hand was great-- of course I live in the City That Works, where alderman have a lot of leeway in their wards, YMMV. There was always a rep from the alderman's office at the meetings, and what we finally settled on doing was trashing them out. The alderman apparently conspired (there's really no other word) with Streets and Sanitation to stop trash pick-up, which got the owner fined, forcing him to pay attention. Ultimately, the owner got rid of the drug dealers.

Forget law enforcement-- it's not that they aren't doing their job, but that they are set up to deal with consequences, not prevention. Once we got the alderman involved, the problem was gone in about 2 months.
posted by nax at 8:01 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just take care of your own safety and security, ie., good locks, don't be on the street during late night crackhouse business hours, etc. There is nothing "conservative" that you personally, or your neighborhood collectively, can do that will force these people to move. And clearly, anything you might do would open you to possible retaliation and even expose you to arrest yourself. If you and your neighbors talk frequently enough to the cops and to other city authorities, especially your elected representatives, you might prod them into more rapid action and perhaps your guestimated six months would be shortened.
posted by beagle at 8:01 AM on July 8, 2008

I have to second getting your city council representative, county commissioner, or whatever analogue you have in Halifax involved. If he/she is anything like the local elected officials we have here in MN, he/she will take it as a personal affront that crackhouses are in his/her district, and may work creatively with you and your neighbors, and with the local bureaucracy, to put a stop to it.

Good luck and stay safe.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:26 AM on July 8, 2008

Point a camera out the window and record as much illicit activity as you can.
Are you renting? If so, contact your landlord and make sure he is aware of the new situation next door.
As previously mentioned, go beyond the police. Higher up the chain of command into the the political arena. Maybe even have a petition signed by the neighbors or something like that.
Find out what you can about the people living or frequenting the house. Maybe they have outstanding warrants.
Buy a 12 gage pump action shotgun. Just in case. Or pepper spray and a bat. You want to be able to repel a home invasion in the event that one of those losers goes really off the deep end. I am serious here. A crazed drug addict can do some real damage before the cops show up and possibly kill someone.
Being on the second floor has tactical advantages. It pretty much negates the windows as a point of entry. So secure your stairwell and have a way of barricading/blocking your door. Are you friendly with the downstairs neighbor? They may need a place to flee too in the event of crazed druggies. Maybe get a wireless doorbell and give them the button, if that particular doorbell rings, it is the action alarm. Open door, let in scared downstairs neighbors, call police and block the door. Lock and load 12 gage and wait for the cops.
I know that sounds extreme, but you have to plan for all contingencies.
Oh yeah, because you are on the second floor. Make sure you have a way out other than the stairway you have barricaded. A rope ladder or something like that, in case crazed druggies set the house on fire and are in the stair way.
Good luck.
posted by a3matrix at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Certainly keep reporting incidents to the cops. Screaming fights, any head-bashing of any sort, etc. Just because the cops know about the crackhouse and will need months of investigation to shut it down doesn't mean that individual incidents should go unreported. Honestly, even if the police get snippy and tell you that they already know, report the small crimes anyway. Squeaky wheel and all that.

Also call all local elected representatives for your area. Be ready with a list of reasons why this is a Bad Situation and Bad For The Neighborhood.

If it were me, I wouldn't necessarily go outside to intervene, but yelling out the window (hey, what's all the noise! what's going on out there?) can be surprisingly effective to discourage people from hanging around, and holds less risk of retaliation/physical confrontation.
posted by desuetude at 8:52 AM on July 8, 2008

Nix the shotgun - Go with Bear Spray.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 8:58 AM on July 8, 2008

When we had one move in across from us, the cops gave us a special phone number to call to reach the detective assigned to that situation. They said we could give them him license plate numbers of any cars parked there; but warned us to stay away from doing anything to interfere. Do not approach any unknown cars was a big warning, FWIW.

They also requested that all of the local cops park there while they wrote their reports as a means to provide visual clue to the folks that they were being watched. We saw them frequently.

The detective was trying to get the higher up guys and said the locals that we were dealing with would just get revolving door treatment in the court system. The cops said all they could probably do was to get them to move on to another location. It took several months, but it did work.
posted by mightshould at 9:02 AM on July 8, 2008

Just curious, but how do you know that this is a crackhouse?
posted by y10k at 9:08 AM on July 8, 2008

... and, following on y10k's question above, doesn't it take more than a week for a place to descend into crackhouse territory?
posted by onshi at 9:16 AM on July 8, 2008

Do keep calling the police, of course. We had the same experience a while back, and the repeated calls (both from us and our neighbors) did get the place raided, finally.

But you know what else helped? The Laser Pointer of Justice. I'm serious--get a red laser pointer, and whenever there's funny on-street activity, just give the perps a few short blasts. You don't even have to hit them; just let them know they're being watched. You can do this from a few feet back from the window, and no one will see where it's coming from. Don't use a green laser, as the beam itself is visible.

Seriously, this is how we deal with loiterers in our neighborhood, guys in the back alley who aren't necessarily doing anything seriously bad, but who we'd like to move along. Works like a dream.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:28 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Whatever you do, don't confront anyone yourself. I realize you are in Canada, but in the US we have something called the "Neighborhood Watch." You can organize something similar by holding a neighborhood meeting and inviting the police to come and educate everyone on what they can do to monitor activities in the neighborhood. Watch what goes on. Call the cops on any suspicious activities.

You can also call the police and request increased patrols on your street. They (at least in the US) are pretty willing to increase their presence by request.

If everyone just keeps their eyes open, looks out for each other, and keeps the police in the loop, the crackheads will most likely leave on their own.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:15 AM on July 8, 2008

I've had this problem numerous times in my neighborhood. We've even had a stray bullet go through our living room...

I've learned that persistence gets things done in these situations.

I was on the phone an hour or two a day calling the cops, finding the name of the landlord for the actual crackhouse (there's always a land lord, most dealers don't buy) and calling that landlord (tell them about the behavior you've witnessed.) If the landlord gets snippy with you, tell the cops that. Aiding and abetting a dealer is a crime too.

Being calm, well spoken and friendly to the cops, land lords etc..really goes a long way in these situations. Talk about how you feel threatened. Go to the station talk to the cops who are in charge of your area.

Getting your neighbors involved works too. Start a neighborhood watch. Make sure to keep your porch lights on. Compile a list of the phone numbers you've found and pass them out.

Funny thing is, most of the time dealers don't stay too the time your done or the cops start to close in, they usually manage to dissapear in the middle of the night.
posted by dearest at 10:17 AM on July 8, 2008

Ok, that is a cruddy link to the Neighborhood watch (the link above just sells the signs.) This site is much better.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:17 AM on July 8, 2008

Neighbourhood Watch in our neighbourhood spends all their time calling the cops on artist-musician types. They don't have time for crackheads.
posted by radgardener at 10:31 AM on July 8, 2008

I've lived next to crackhouses in New Orleans and Baltimore and I would NOT be shining laser pointers at crackheads, buying guns (whether they're pump-action shotguns or nickel-plated revolvers), or intending to use bear spray (?!) in my living room. That vigilante justice stuff is like sleeping with a security blanket made of burning, robot bees. And if you kill someone in a home invasion, you'll wish you'd just moved for the rest of your life.

I will nth calling the police, and calling a local representative, and meeting with your neighbors to discuss a plan of action. If nothing materializes out of that within a week, move out -- you're screwed.

I've done that before. I say all of this having had my car set on fire, a boy shot in my back yard, people stealing out of my house while I'm home, and having personally chased a crackhead down the street with a machete while he stole my bicycle ... a week after getting beat up in the projects by children because a crackhead stole my bike, sold it to them, and I tried to take it back not knowing how they'd come upon it. (I got it back though.)

Crackheads will steal your shit. And if you're lucky enough to beat one up in the process, their community will single you out as "a problem." As you said, you don't want that.
posted by metajc at 10:50 AM on July 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

Just to clarify my post; I never said buy a shotgun and hit the streets. If you read my post it is fairly clear that the shotgun, pepper spray+baseball bat are clearly for defensive actions, in the event such an occurrence warrants.
Calling the cops is great, up until the point you have some cracked out lunatic wigging out at your door. Then you might as well be phoning in your last will and testament.
I am not encouraging vigilante type Death Wish behavior. I merely offered up options for securing ones safety in the confines of ones apartment.
I will add, if you have never used a shotgun, well, either now is the time to learn and get comfortable using one, or steer clear.
I think you should establish a communications network with your neighbor's. Strength in numbers kind of a thing. Better that you know them and have established protocol in the event that the next person getting their ass kicked is not a druggy, but either you or your neighbor.
Have a code word that if yelled brings all good people to the street in numbers enough to ward off the druggies.
You and your neighbors are going to have to take your neighborhood back.
posted by a3matrix at 12:35 PM on July 8, 2008

You can try to get in touch with your MP as well. There's no guarantee it will help, but having an MP involved might get the local cops to move faster.
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:20 PM on July 8, 2008

second working with local leaders, setting up video cameras (they will try to steal them). I'd consider a few motion sensor lights for your private space- driveway, etc.
Also, look for Skunk Gel. Smears on, lasts for weeks, can't be rinsed away and stinks to high heaven. Very few people actually want to live/get high/exist while wrapped in a dense blanket of shit. Wear gloves and clothes you won't mind burning.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 11:02 PM on July 9, 2008

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