Special Report: High alert
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"It's obvious to law enforcement that these items are being used to smoke crack cocaine," said Chief Paul Hayes, of Hanover Police Department.
Drug investigators say meth users and crack addicts love these, because they can very easily turn them into pipes and use them to get high. Herman Lawson, a store clerk who doesnít sell them because of their potentially illicit use, has witnessed people using the "pipes."
"They use it for drugs, so they can smoke their drugs," said Lawson.
So why are they being sold in plain view at convenience stores all around Massachusetts? 7News had no problem buying a dozen of these potential "crack pipes" in corner stores. In Boston, we found them in four stores. Whatís more shocking is that each store is just two blocks away from a school.
"It is scary," Allen Page, a parent, said. "I don't appreciate it."
"Itís horrible," Kathy Destefano, another parent, added. "They got to go."
They're not just in Boston. We bought these vile vases in Peabody, Revere, Cambridge, Canton and Rockland.
"The public ought to be appalled that their kids can walk into these stores and see these items and purchase them," Chief Hayes said.
Do shopkeepers know what these glass tubes are being used for? In one store, the clerk didn't have any of them. So, he told us to buy these rolling papers instead. Investigators tell us rolling papers can also be used to smoke drugs.
"They know what they're selling and what they're selling it for", commented Hayes. "It's all profit margin."
These pipes are so dangerous that the drug enforcement agency confiscated 300,000 of them in Detroit. As for our supply in Massachusetts, the D.E.A., the Attorney General and several police departments refused to talk to us for this story.
7News alerted the National Association of Convenience Stores of what we found, and they responded in part, "Business-wise it makes no sense to sell these products. The few dollars you make off of them does not counter the loss of good will of the community."
Many storeowners, who know about the problem, have stopped selling the potential pipes.
"I explained to my boss, if we sell these tubes, we might as well sell crack cocaine," Lawson said.
And Hanover police chief has put local stores on notice.
"Someone needs to take the bull by the horns and advise these people to remove these items," Hayes said.
But right now, Hayes fears not enough is being done about this high alert.
(Copyright (c) 2007 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
Full reply from the National Association of Convenience Stores:
"For those retailers who offer rolling papers or similar items instead of rose tubes, there really is not justification I can offer. These instances really are head shops masquerading as convenience stores.
However, there are many instances in which the storeowner doesn't know the purpose of these tubes. They know retail, and they have no clue about the drug culture. Many of them are horrified when they learn how these products are used. Given that about 60 percent of convenience stores are true mom and pops (one store), it's difficult to reach out to many of these retailers to share best practices, especially since they may not know we exist to help them.
Business-wise, it makes no sense to sell these products either. The few dollars you make off them does not counter the loss of goodwill of the community. And because convenience stores have the smallest shopping radius of any retail channel - just a mile or two - they are also part of the communities they serve and have a stake in ensuring it is as good as possible."