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Police Find 'Drug Stems' In Stores Across Charlotte

Small glass vials that hold tiny fake roses are actually crack pipes, police said, and they have been discovered across Charlotte.


The city passed a law over a decade ago making it illegal to sell the vials in Charlotte, but Eyewitness News discovered they're back.


Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Tom Knopp took Channel 9 to the police department's property control room to show some of the vials seized from Charlotte convenience stores.


Once whatever is inside is removed and a piece of scouring pad is added, they become instant crack pipes, police said.


“Take a piece of it, put it into the glass tube (and) you now have a means to ingest an illegal narcotic,” Knopp said.


This spring, in what police called Operation Glass Rose, undercover officers bought the vials at 37 different stores.



Convenience Stores Where Undercover Officers Say Drug Stems Were Purchased



But not even that sweep found them all. An Eyewitness News employee went into the Quick Mart on Freedom Drive and while no drug stems were visible, it didn't take long to learn they were for sale.


The clerk reached under the counter and, seconds later, pulled out one.


Scouring pads, too, were right under the counter.


Officer Charles Witherspoon minced no words in talking about stores like the Quick Mart.


“What I characterize those locations and those convenience stores as doing is ‘pimping the neighborhood,'" Witherspoon said.


Witherspoon said selling glass vials draws drug addicts who leave a trail of other crimes in their wake.


“It might be robbery from a person, it might be robbery of a home -- someone breaking into someone else's house,” Witherspoon said. “It just escalates to all different types of criminal activity.”


Channel 9 went back to the Quick Mart. At first, the clerk denied selling the glass roses, but when Eyewitness News showed him the vial and scouring pad, he stopped denying but said he didn’t know how they were used.


“They might do a lot of stuff,” the clerk said. “I don't know what they're doing.”


Attorneys within the police department said the city's ordinance is clear that the glass roses are illegal because they have no legitimate purpose otherwise.


“I can't tell you that it's actually going to stop the smoking of crack within the community, but it certainly will stop that convenience store from facilitating it,” Witherspoon said. “And that's a good start.”


The city's ordinance on drug stems makes it a misdemeanor to sell them. It also includes a $50 fine for each offense and the forfeiture of all drug stems found on the property.
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