Europe's Lockdowns Make Drug Deals on Streets Tough

Police have an easier time spotting illegal transactions
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 10, 2020 9:47 AM CDT
Drug Dealers, Too, Limit Hours During Europe's Lockdowns
A man walk by buildings in Venissieux, a suburb of Lyon, France, last month.   (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

The self-employed salesman in Brussels needed to rethink the way he did business during the coronavirus pandemic. Uncertain supply chains, stricter oversight, and customers with financial worries of their own are some of the problems solo entrepreneurs like him encountered as Europe hunkered down. There's not much a small-time drug dealer can do except seek a new line of work—or adjust. Jerry, who uses the alias to protect his identity, has sold cocaine, marijuana, and MDMA—known as ecstasy or Molly on the street—since moving from Albania in 2016, the AP reports. Even more than the closure of bars and other venues where people like to score and use what Jerry sells, his decision to close up shop at 9pm reflected another change in his work environment: officers checking largely deserted city streets to make sure the public complied with stay-home orders, he said.

"The lockdown is the most annoying thing,” Jerry said. “It’s stressful. Because of the police patrols, you can't deal drugs at night anymore. It's too dangerous. You can get spotted too easily." Across the border in France, law enforcement agencies noticed the trade visibly changing after the lockdown on March 17. Vehicles that speed through the country delivering caches of imported drugs no longer moved on usual routes, and mules who transport cocaine from French Guiana had “completely faded” from sight. At a public housing project in the Vénissieux area near Lyon, the chair that marijuana runners used to greet customers and take orders is empty. Instead, prices are handwritten on the walls of an apartment building like a chalkboard listing a restaurant's daily specials. The young sellers complete transactions in building lobbies or staircases now instead of out in the open.

(More coronavirus stories.)

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