By Isabelle Z.
Just when you thought America’s drug epidemic couldn’t get much lower, crack pipe vending machines have started popping up in New York. Police are working hard to try to solve the mystery of who is behind the machines, which masquerade as pen dispensers.
The blue and white machines have been popping up in the Long Island towns of Coram and Medford. One was found in front of a Home Depot, one was near a bus stop, and another was placed in front of an apartment building, according to officials. They have the words “Sketch Pens” written across them, and officials say they are repurposed tampon dispensers that were likely stolen from public restrooms.
Users who insert $2 in the form of eight quarters are given pens that consist of a glass tube, filters, and the top of a pen and an ink tube that can be placed into the glass tube on the pretense of forming a pen. While one person who bought the “pen” says the instructions claim that the filter is supposedly meant to rub off ink or serve as an eraser, the presence of the filter and the fact that the pens come in a glass tube make it more than obvious what these pens are truly meant for.
At first, officials thought they might be a joke, but when they saw how intricate the machines were and the fact that they were cemented into the ground, they realized it was serious. Area residents say it’s a “bad area for drugs” and the machines are “disgusting.” Although there is a phone number on the back of the boxes, officials say it was a dead endand likely only included to lend legitimacy to the machines.
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Although selling the “pens” is not illegal on its own, the machines themselves are illegal, Councilman Michael Loguercio said in a press conference: “It is not illegal to sell the pens and it is not illegal to sell a pipe, but they are considered drug paraphernalia and they were being dispensed from a machine that was installed illegally per town code.”
The unauthorized placement of these machines could lead to fines of up to $4,000. Suffolk police have asked people with information to call their tip line at 1-800-220-TIPS.
The Suffolk County Police Department has already removed the machines and is now trying to determine who placed them there. One of them was destroyed by community members who were angry about its presence in their neighborhood.
In a news conference, Brooklyn Town Supervisor Ed Romaine commented: “There are some people who think they’re going to make some money out of this and prey on a community and promote drug use in a community. They’re going to be sadly mistaken.”
New legislation aimed at copycat vending machines
In response, State Senator Jesse Hamilton (D-Central Brooklyn) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams have announced legislation that will ban vending machines from selling any type of drug paraphernalia. The legislation will see penalties enhanced, loopholes closed, and significant civil fines. They’re hoping to discourage copycats, although it’s hard to imagine that anyone could have ever thought this was a good idea in the first place. Perhaps someone was trying to prove a point about the area’s drug problem?
Sources for this article include: