Spotting drug activity in your neighborhood

Maple Valley Police Department storefront officer

I often talk with citizens who express concern over residences where there appears to be illicit activity taking place. Many times, the descriptions of what goes on at these places are characteristic of potential narcotics activity. Here are some general indicators of illegal drug activity — the following signs are more general. They could be indicators of various types of illegal drug activity including drug distribution, manufacturing or growing.

• Expensive vehicles: People in extremely expensive cars regularly visiting renters who appear less solvent may be significant.

• Unusual fortification of a building or residence: Blacked-out windows, the internal taping down of curtains, window bars, extra deadbolts, and expensive alarm systems may be significant. Note that growing operators and ‘drug cooks’, in particular, often add fortifications – extra locks, bars on windows and thorough window coverings are typical. Frequent visits to the premises, or trips away from the premises. This would be a significant sign only if the trips are made from a location where other indicators of drug activity are observed.

• Firearms: The presence of weapons, of all types in the premises, may indicate drug activity. Drug dealers typically sell small quantities to many purchasers. Dealing locations are usually high traffic locations with each person buying a small amount of drugs.

• Heavy traffic: For example, a number of cars and pedestrians stopping at a home for only brief periods. Traffic may be cyclical, increasing on weekends or late at night

• Exchanges of money: Cash and packets may be traded through windows, mail boxes or under doorways. People bring valuables into the premises. Visitors regularly bring televisions, bicycles, DVD’s and cameras – and leave empty handed.

• Waiting in cars and use of odd parking locations: Visitors may sit in their cars for a while after leaving a residence or may leave one person in the car while the others visit. Visitors also may park around a corner or a few blocks away and approach on foot.

• Lookouts: Frequently lookouts will be younger people who tend to hang around the property during heavy traffic periods described earlier.

• Regular activity at extremely late hours: For example, noise and visitors between midnight and dawn.

• Other obvious signs: These signs may include people exchanging small packets for cash, people using drugs while sitting in their cars, and syringes or other paraphernalia left in common areas or on neighboring property.