Strolling through Wayne State University recently, I walked inside a corner market for a pop.
Behind the counter of S&L Quickstop were cigarettes and a dizzying array of paraphernalia. What immediately caught my attention were plastic pens starting at $2.50.
“I’ll take one of those,” I told the clerk, pointing to the colorful pens.
“Chore Boy?” he asked.
Surprised, I nodded.
For less than $3, I walked out of a store on a college campus with a glass crack pipe and a tiny chunk of Chore Boy, which is used as a filter. For most of us non-crack smokers, Chore Boy is a scrub pad to clean dirty dishes.
But when the wool mesh is cut up and sold for a quarter next to crack pipes, you aren’t buying cleaning supplies. And that pen? It’s a glass tube with no ink.
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Users stuff the small chunk of Chore Boy into the disassembled pen as a filter, and it’s ready to go.
“These glass stems have only one real purpose – to be used to smoke crack cocaine,” retired Detroit Police Sgt David L. Malhalab told me. “Crack pipes sold in Michigan have gone through many changes to disguise their true purposes.”
It’s not uncommon to find crack pipes at gas stations and dollar stores, but most hide the products from the general public, said Malhalab, who once raided a store at Minock and W. Warren and seized 13,000 crack pipes.
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Trouble is, Malhalab said, police often turn a blind eye, and prosecutors are wary to get involved in paraphernalia cases in which drugs are not found.
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Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.