Special Assignment: Crack Pipes for Sale

By: Kristen Cosby
By: Kristen Cosby


To the unknowing eye, it looks like a small gift or collectable.

But anyone who's been around drugs knows what it really is: a crack pipe.

News 12's Kristen Cosby has been investigating the small glass tubes sold in local convenience stores.

And with the help of a hidden camera, she found dozens of stores that willingly sell them for smoking crack.

It's our Special Assignment: A Crack Pipe by Any Other Name.

The culprit is a glass tube about four inches long with an artificial rose inside.

It's perfectly legal to sell.

The problem: investigators say the only thing they've seen these used for is smoking drugs.

As our hidden camera investigation finds, the store clerks who sell them know that too.

News 12 research assistant Dawn Crawley went undercover to convenience stores in Aiken, Richmond and McDuffie counties, wired with a microphone. Another News 12 employee followed her with a hidden camera.

We found that most clerks do sell the roses. They pull them out from behind the counter.

"What are people using these for?" Dawn asked one clerk.

"You want the truth?"

"Yes."

"Smoke crack," the clerk said.

"Are you serious?"

"Yes ma'am, that's why I'm looking at you so hard."

And at another store:

"What are people using these for? Because my friend sent me in here to buy this," Dawn said.

"Smoking crack," said the clerk.

"Are you serious?"

"Crack cocaine, or something like that. I'm not going to lie to you."

"I was shocked that people were coming right out and saying this was for crack, it was for drugs and that they were coming right out and selling them knowing this was the true purpose," Dawn said afterwards.

A cashier at Thompson's Chevron admitted to Dawn that people come from all over to buy the pipes.

"You got big city folks traveling," the cashier said. "They're looking for what they have at home."

The clerk at Curgins Corner in Warrenville says these roses are popular.

And in our search we found all kinds of glass tubes.

Most of them are short little tubes with corks on the bottom. There's foil on the bottom of some of them, and plastic on the bottom of others. We also found a really large tube. Investigators tell News 12 it is used for meth.

In all, we stopped at sixteen convenience stores.

Only two don't carry the pipes.

Two were sold out, but told us where we can get them.

Twelve stores sell us the pipes and admit they're used to smoke crack.

And two sold us a pipe but wouldn't say what they're for.

"Some people didn't necessarily tell me it was for crack, but they obviously know," Dawn said. "They had the look on their face like, 'I know what this is for, but I don't necessarily want to tell you'.".

Investigators say that when people get home from the store with these rose tubes, they simply take off the end and pull out the rose. Then they take a Chore Boy scouring pad and simply break off an end and stuff it into the tube. That creates a filter...and they have a crack pipe.

"They put like Chore Boy, a Brillo pad in one end to act as a filter and light on that end, and they pretty much suck the smoke out of the other end," says Deputy Jason Fox, an Aiken County K-9 officer who searches for drugs.

He showed us a glass tube he confiscated from a crack smoker.

The department finds hundreds of these a year--they're the most common way to smoke crack and cocaine.

"Have you ever seen [the roses] used for anything but crack?" we asked him.

"No."

The roses are legal to sell in Georgia and South Carolina.

They only become illegal drug paraphernalia when they've been used.

But Deputy Fox says selling them is contributing to the drug problem.

"It's kind of an irritation, to be honest with you, because all it does is just help out the problem we're trying to control," he says.

Deputy Fox says banning the sale of the roses would not eliminate the drug problem, but it could help discourage it.

They're already banned in Michigan, Chicago and San Francisco.

We played some of our hidden convenience store audio for Deputy Fox.

He wasn't at all surprised with what clerks told us.

Clerks keep the glass tubes behind the counter. Deputy Fox says that they're popular items for crack addicts to steal, so they're behind the counter for protection.

We just had to find out why so many convenience stores have no problem selling crack pipes.

We start in Thomson.

We bought some of the roses earlier at the Chevron.

But when we return, the clerk lies to us.

"We bought some here about a week and a half ago with a hidden camera, so you used to sell them."

"We don't sell," said the clerk.

"You don't sell them anymore. Why did you stop selling them?"

"Some people buy for drug use, so we stop," the clerk said.

"Are you telling me the truth or are you just feeding me a line?"

Turns out, he was.

As we got ready to leave, we noticed something.

"Oh, wait. What are these? These are the glass tubes that you said you weren't selling. I'm talking about these. You just told me you don't sell these anymore."

"My boss. Ma. He buy."

"So you did just lie to me."

Next, we go to the Racetrack in Thomson.

Our audio from the hidden camera the week before showed that the clerk knew exactly what these roses are for.

But when we return another clerk gets defensive.

"It's just a rose."

"The clerk that worked behind the desk told us that rose pipe was used to smoke crack with. We have it on camera."

"You can use that rose for whatever you want to use it for," the clerk said.

"You don't feel like you're contributing to a drug problem by selling those?"

"How are we contributing to a drug problem for selling something that's offered to everybody? We buy 'em from a merchant. How are we contributing to a drug problem?"

We start our Hephzibah visits at Wally's on Windsor Spring Road.

"Do you sell those little glass tubes that have the roses inside of them?"

"We sure do."

Two weeks earlier, a clerk there told us what they're for.

But this time, another clerk played dumb...until her co-worker, the same one on our hidden camera, called her out.

"You know what they're used for."

"I thought it was just a little rose to give to your girlfriend or boyfriend," the first clerk said.

"Come on now," we said. "Do you really want to give that pathetic looking thing to your girlfriend?"

The clerk shook his head no.

Finally a customer speaks up: "Those are crack pens."

The clerks later refer us to the Wally's owner, Beth.

We call Beth and she tells us customers requested the rose tubes. She said, "We sell what people come in and ask for."

But Beth refused an on-camera interview.

So on to the next stop, the Holiday Market up the street.

"Do you sell those little glass tubes with the roses in them?"

"I don't know what it is," the clerk said.

"Do you sell them here?"

"No."

"We bought them here about a week ago, and in one Week you stopped selling them?"

"I didn't say stop selling them. We outta them."

"Well, you know what they're used for, right?"

"Not really I don't. To be honest with you I don't."

"I bet he knows what they're used for," we said, indicating a customer.

"What?" the customer asked.

"Those glass roses."

"Crack pipes," said the customer immediately.

We crossed the river into Aiken County.

We bought a pipe just two weeks earlier at Curgin's Corner off Highway 421 in Warrenville.

When we returned, the clerk says they've never carried them.

"Do you sell those glass tubes with the roses inside them?"

"No."

"You don't?"

"No."

"Well, we bought some here just last week with a hidden camera."

"I didn't really know about them. I really honestly didn't know about them," the clerk said.

And it's more denial at Ball's Food Mart.

"We bought a glass one before, but you don't have those in right now?"

"No, no," the owner said.

"One of your clerks told me that they were used to smoke crack out of, so I was just wondering if you knew."

"We don't have no clerks," she said. "I'm the only one who works here."

"Well maybe it was you, then."

"No, no, I don't know what they're used for."

Then the owner asks us what the pipes are for.

"What they have to do with it?"

"They use it like a pipe. They take the rose out and use the glass part."

"Oh, that's a shame."

That lady owned Ball's Food Mart.

But some of the clerks who sell the tubes are just doing their job. It's not their choice.

We spoke with investigators, who agree banning the sale of these rose tubes would make their job easier.

They say the best way to end sales is to pass legislation banning these tubes.

That's already been done in Michigan, Chicago and San Francisco.

Not that a drug addict would care, but this doesn't look like a very safe way to smoke something.

It isn't at all.

Investigators tell us the glass gets so hot, that it's common to see burns on crack users' fingers and mouths.


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