A drug house or crack house is a building where drug dealers and drug users buy, sell, produce, and use illegal drugs, including crack cocaine. In this way, crack houses are not unlike the earlier opium dens of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Often they are old, abandoned or burnt-out buildings, oftentimes in an inner city neighborhood. However, in response to increased community scrutiny and law enforcement activity, drug operations are moving from the inner cities to the suburbs, in an effort to blend in.
In the 1980s, US inner city neighborhoods were subject to a number of forces, including white flight, redlining, planned shrinkage, and withdrawal of city services such as garbage collection. Police and fire protection of the housing stock in these areas dwindled both in size and quality. In areas such as North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, the South Bronx, Brownsville, Brooklyn, South Jamaica, Queens and Flushing, Queens thousands of fires left entire blocks blighted. City agencies picked these same neighborhoods as sites for drug rehabilitation centers, homeless shelters, and public housing, leading to an increase in the proportion of poor and needy people in areas with dwindling middle-class populations.
The strongest economy in some neighborhoods became the illegal drug trade, much to the chagrin of the few remaining community organizations. Abandoned buildings ravaged by arson or neglect formed perfect outposts for drug dealers since they were free, obscure, secluded and there would be no paper trail in the form of rent receipts. The sale of illegal drugs drew other kinds of violent crime to these neighborhoods further exacerbating the exodus of residents. In some cases enraged citizens have burned crack houses to the ground, in hopes that by destroying the sites for drug operations they might also drive the problematic illegal industries from their neighborhoods. Many major American inner cities contain crack houses.
Strong legislation in England and Wales provides a mechanism for police and local authorities to close crack houses which have been associated with disorder or serious nuisance. Often, these crack houses have been found in social housing, which has been taken over by drug dealers and users.
Laws such as the crack house closure order were designed to disrupt Class A drug dealing and anecdotal evidence suggests that it mainly affects socially housed tenants. The effect is that once an order is made, the premises are boarded up, and no one may enter the premises, initially for a period of three months, but this can be extended to six months on the application of the police.
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