Open-Air Drug Markets
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Why Open-Air Drug Markets are So Dangerous

Open-air drug markets are areas of a city that are known to have extensive drug buying and selling exchanges. These markets are often in the inner-city in large metropolitan areas. They might be in buildings with security measures in place but they are often quite literally out in the open. Buyers can walk up to front porches, open lots, and street corners and freely purchase illicit drugs, especially heroin. Open-air markets often see deadly violence as a result of turf wars and gang activity. Crime rates often make the surrounding town more dangerous. In some cases, children are given tasks in and around drug selling locations to discourage violence.

What Is an Open Air Drug Market?

Open-air drug markets represent a method of selling illicit drugs that is fairly uncommon. Typically, drugs are sold in “closed markets,” or when the buyer and the seller already know each other. A transaction between strangers can also take place over the phone, where drugs are ordered and the price and trade location are pre-determined. With the growth of technology, drugs can also be bought online. However, instances of drug transactions between strangers in a set geographical location without having any predetermined details is uncommon, but not unheard of.

These markets are often set up based on where the clients are, rather than having the buyers find the market. Open-air market sellers target people who are already addicted. Because there is a certain level of risk involved in doing a drug transaction out in the open, open markets are preferred by people who are desperate, needing drugs quickly. This is usually the case with someone with a serious drug abuse disorder.

For that reason, markets are set up in neighborhoods known for drug use, near prisons, halfway houses, inner-city rehab facilities, and anywhere else with a large concentration of addicted people. They are also commonly located in areas of low economic status and near urban transportation routes.

In some cases, neighborhoods work to force drug markets out of town with protests, buy occupying known selling locations, and by reporting criminal activity to the police. However, addicted clients keep coming and dealers keep selling.

Though open-air drug markets are just one of several ways to buy drugs, they are incredibly dangerous.

Why Are Open-Air Drug Markets Dangerous?

Drug markets are associated with a wide variety of problems that hurt neighborhoods and lead to death, violence, and disease. An open drug dealing hub not only attracts crime, it can increase the number of addicted people and encourage other types of criminal activity.
Young residents of neighborhoods near open-air drug markets are at an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder themselves. Environmental factors are a significant contributor to addiction and an early exposure to drugs and alcohol has shown to increase a person’s risk of developing an addiction.

According to a Rutgers Center on Public Security report, studies show that drug markets are associated with an increase in prostitution. Prostitution is allowed to grow as an illegal trade in a given area for some of the same reasons an open-air drug market can. Plus, users may turn to prostitution as a way to finance their own drug addiction and many prostitutes have substance use disorders. As a result, the two issues feed into one another. An increase in prostitution and drug use can potentially cause an increase in infectious diseases through risky sexual encounters and intravenous drug use.

The Rutgers report also notes that open-air drug markets occur close to areas with high instances of muggings, often from robbers attempting to finance a drug addiction. Small time drug dealers and customers are often robbed of the drug directly but other people can also be victims.

Turf wars, robberies, and gang activity can also increase gun violence in areas in and around open-air drug markets. One review of youth gun violence found that young offenders are often concentrated around very specific areas like open air-drug markets.

Why Don’t the Police Shut Them Down?

Local law enforcement works hard to stop the drug trade and they do, sometimes, shut down open-air markets. However, dealers often choose market locations very carefully. Again, they are located based on clientele. When targeting prostitutes, dealers open markets near convention centers, hotels, coffee shops, and bars, which are typical locations for traveling johns to hire women. However, areas around transportation hubs, schools, recreation areas, and shopping centers also work to hide drug markets in the middle of legitimate street traffic.

Open air drug markets are established with camouflage and easy escape in mind. Both buyers and sellers gravitate to areas where exchanges can happen quickly without drawing much attention. Transactions can occur in dimly lit areas, concealed landscapes, and abandoned buildings. They will also establish markets where they can have a good line of sight to watch for police.

What Happens When they Close?

When areas become well-known, large mounted efforts can shut them down, despite difficulties. Cities can work with police to force out dealers and users and to change the landscape to make it a less attractive location for drug markets. They might increase lighting, add uncomfortable terrain, or tear down old abandoned structures. Disrupting these markets and drug-using sights seems like a positive thing and it is largely necessary, but it comes with some consequences.

Redeveloping the area doesn’t cure addiction, and efforts to clean up open-air markets often displace people who are addicted. They will seek new areas and new sources of drugs like heroin, which is often impure and cut with other dangerous chemicals. Recently a surge of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, has made its way into illicit heroin supplies and constantly leads to overdose. Ultimately, to fix addiction and drug use problems, addiction has to be treated.

Seeking Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a disease that is chronic and can cause relapse at similar rates to diabetes and hypertension. However, it is treatable with evidence-based therapies and professional help. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help may just be a call away. Call the addiction specialists at Drug Treatment Center Finder at 855-619-8070 or contact us online to learn more about your addiction treatment options.