What Is a Trap House?

The question “what’s a trap house?” has a tendency to confuse many people. Most of the time, the response is nothing more than a totally blank look on their faces. In this piece today, we will explain what this term is and what it denotes. If you have ever been dumbfounded by this question, this article will make everything clear to you once and for all.

The term “trap house” can simply be defined as the place where illicit drugs are routinely sold. Other terms used interchangeably in its place are “crack house” and “drug house.” A major component of the illegal drug economy, drug houses also serve as shelters for addicts. While they seek refuge there, drug users are also able to deal in them for some much-needed money. In this way, the house becomes a “trap house.”

Why Is It Called a Trap House?

The term “trap” is used to denote how drug users are “trapped” in this house and they have no choice but to deal drugs. Apart from the usual drug peddling, some trap houses also become laboratories and manufacturing centers for drugs. Most of the time, a closer inspection of a crack house reveals that there is a lot more going on between the four walls than first thought.

So, what is a trap house? While drug dealing as well as squatting of addicts is an everyday occurrence at a trap house, the place is also a storage area for drugs of all kinds. Concealing illegal cultivation is one more activity that drug pushers and small-time dealers carry out at a trap house from time to time.

Trap Houses in the United States

Back in the 1980s, inner city neighborhoods in America experienced many seismic shifts. Phenomena like white flight, planned shrinkage and redlining altered the living dynamics of many areas significantly. Moreover, services like garbage collection were withdrawn by the authorities while police and fire safeguards of the housing stock declined both in quality as well as size.

Over time, hundreds of fires erupted in places like North and West Philadelphia, South Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Flushing, West and South Baltimore, South Jamaica, and Brownsville that turned entire residential blocks into blazing infernos.

As these incidents became a routine occurrence, the authorities picked all same neighborhoods to set up homeless shelters, drug rehab centers, and public housing blocks. This resulted in rising poverty as more and more needy people were put up in these welfare projects. Simultaneously, a shrinking middle class population meant that the number of impoverished households increased steadily.

The Origin of Trap Houses

Difficult living conditions in the aforementioned areas proved to be fertile ground for one industry: illegal drug trade. Crippling poverty in many homes meant that vulnerable young people would practically do anything for a few extra bucks and the drug business offered an easy way out of poverty for many.

While few remaining community organizations in these neighborhoods despaired, the drug trade thrived. Buildings abandoned due to fires or left in decay due to neglect became the perfect sanctuaries for drug dealers and business boomed. They didn’t have to pay rent in those places and hardly anyone ever came there. Since no rent was due, there were no paper trails (rent receipts or proof of payments) that would put them in the crosshairs of the police and other law enforcement agencies.

With the sale of illegal and illicit drugs rising all the time, these areas also attracted other forms of violent crime. At the same time, the exodus of people continued unabated. Families that had the financial resources grabbed the first opportunity that came their way and left the neighborhood for good.

Amidst all this, one interesting phenomenon emerged. While most people jumped at the chance to leave such surroundings behind, there were also those that took it upon themselves to do something about the illegal drugs trade. There were incidents of enraged citizens setting fire to the crack houses in the hope that destroying the huge cache of drugs would force the peddlers out of these neighborhoods.

It’s a whole other question as to how successful this strategy proved to be. On the face of it, most inner cities in the United States today have thriving crack houses. The law enforcement agencies do raid them from time to time but a complete elimination of such places doesn’t seem to be getting any closer.

Trap Houses in the United Kingdom

On the other side of the Atlantic, there is a different strategy in play for dealing with trap houses. In both England and Wales, strong legislation gives the police and local agencies the authority to shut down crack houses which have been known to cause nuisance and disorder within a community.

Most drug dealers tend to take over abandoned homes in social housing projects. In comparison to the US, the British have more robust legislation in place to deal with the menace of trap houses. But, here again, the intended target hasn’t quite been achieved.

While laws such as crack house closure order were formulated to clamp down on Class A drug offences, the evidence suggests that the most affected people were actually the socially-housed tenants. When a crack house closure order is served, the premises are sealed and no one is allowed to enter for a period of 3 months. The police can get it extended to 6 on application. On the face of it, the legislation seems to be doing more harm than good.

Final Words and Intriguing Pop Culture References

Over time, trap houses have received a fair bit of interest in the entertainment media. Hip-hop artists regularly make references to trap houses in their music. Moreover, films like Crack House feature these places prominently while the acclaimed TV show Breaking Bad also makes multiple references to trap houses.

In short, the phenomenon of trap houses seems like it is here to stay. Not only have the authorities been unable to root out the problem, it has now become a popular theme in the world of showbiz and entertainment.

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