Pssst! Hey buddy! Wanna buy some Tide? Top quality detergent cheap!

The face of black market laundry detergent: Patrick Costanzo.

I’m rarely surprised by things people are willing to steal, but I have to admit that I was taken aback by learning that there is apparently a black market for laundry detergent. Specifically, for the Tide brand as thieves are making off with it by the, literal, cartload.


Tide has become a form of currency on the streets. The retail price is steadily high — roughly $10 to $20 a bottle — and it’s a staple in households across socioeconomic classes.

Tide can go for $5 to $10 a bottle on the black market, authorities say. Enterprising laundry soap peddlers even resell bottles to stores.

“There’s no serial numbers and it’s impossible to track,” said Detective Larry Patterson of the Somerset, Ky., Police Department, where authorities have seen a huge spike in Tide theft. “It’s the item to steal.”

Seriously. I am just flabbergasted by that. I mean, I could maybe understand it if you were strapped for cash and were stealing it to do your own laundry with, but to resell on the black market? From the sounds of it the crooks are only going after Tide and none of the alternatives mainly because Tide is the most popular and recognized brand. There’s even a company developing some sort of anti-theft alarm system for bottles of Tide that’s being tested in CVS stores. Did you get that? AN ALARM SYSTEM FOR LAUNDRY DETERGENT!

“These are criminals coming into the store to steal thousands of dollars of merchandise,” said Detective Harrison Sprague of the Prince George’s County, Md., Police Department, where Tide is known as “liquid gold” among officers.

He and other law enforcement officials across the country say Tide theft is connected to the drug trade. In fact, a recent drug sting turned up more Tide that cocaine.

“We sent in an informant to buy drugs. The dealer said, ‘I don’t have drugs, but I could sell you 15 bottles of Tide,’ ” Sprague told The Daily. “Upstairs in the drug dealer’s bedroom was about 14 bottles of Tide laundry soap. We think [users] are trading it for drugs.”

Police in Gresham, Ore., said most Tide theft is perpetrated by “users feeding their habit.”

I had to double check to see that this wasn’t a parody story in The Onion. Especially after reading this:

“They’ll do it right in front of a cop car — buying heroin or methamphetamine with Tide,” said Detective Rick Blake of the Gresham Police Department. “We would see people walking down the road with six, seven bottles of Tide. They were so blatant about it.”

But it’s no joke. That mugshot back at the top of this entry? That’s Patrick Costanzo who was busted for stealing $6,300 worth of Tide powder (video at the link). He’s no first timer either. Police say Patrick hit the same Walmart some 28 times to steal Tide and a bunch of other crap. He’s also not alone. That store reports thefts of Tide totaling over $25,000!

Just when you think life can’t get any stranger you find out folks are buying their illegal drugs with stolen laundry soap. I’m still trying to understand how this works out well for the drug dealer. I can only assume he must be able to resell the Tide for more than what the drugs were worth and yet still less than what it goes for in the store (otherwise why would you buy it from him?). I’m not sure if that says more about the price of Tide or the price of drugs.

Mexican drug smugglers go old school to bypass modern problems.

Pic of drug flinging trebuchet.

Who knew you could get your pot delivered via air mail?

And by old school I mean really old school. Like 12th century old school:

Several individuals set up a trebuchet, a type of catapult powered by a counterweight, just south of the border fence, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a news release.

A video clip released by the agency shows a small group apparently launching drugs over the border with the device.

Border Patrol agents contacted Mexican authorities, who disrupted the attempt. Seized were approximately 45 pounds of marijuana, an SUV, and the 3-yard tall catapult on a flatbed trailer.

via Smugglers get medieval: Pot catapult found at border.

Problem: Neighboring country doesn’t like you selling drugs to its citizens so they erect a large fence.

Solution: Toss your shit over with a trebuchet.

Beats digging a tunnel.

Cold medicine policy aimed at reducing meth production ends up creating more criminals.

Crystal Meth is one of the few drugs that makes me doubt my belief that drug prohibition laws should be repealed — it’s affects are stunningly deleterious to addicts. The problem with trying to control production is the fact that it can be whipped up using common household chemicals and over-the-counter cold medications. There’s also a variety of methods, most of them dangerous, that can be used to produce meth.

Given all of that, it was decided the best plan of attack was to track and limit how much cold medicine you can legally buy. The idea being that if you tried to buy more than a reasonable amount of cold medicines that can be used in meth production the authorities could be notified. This did put a dent in meth production, for awhile at least.

Ultimately the meth producers did what any enterprising business would do and outsourced the acquisition of cold medicines to people looking to make a quick buck:

“It’s almost like a sub-criminal culture,” said Gary Boggs, an agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration. “You’ll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They’ll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit.”

Inside their vehicles, the so-called “pill brokers” punch out blister packs into a bucket and even clip coupons, Boggs said.

[…] In some cases, the pill buyers are not interested in meth. They may be homeless people recruited off the street or even college kids seeking weekend beer money, authorities say.

Because of booming demand created in large part by the tracking systems, they can buy a box of pills for $7 to $8 and sell it for $40 or $50.

The tracking systems “invite more people into the criminal activity because the black market price of the product becomes so much more profitable,” said Jason Grellner, a detective in hard-hit Franklin County, Mo., about 40 miles west of St. Louis.

“Where else can you make a 750 percent profit in 45 minutes?” asked Grellner, former president of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association.

via AP IMPACT: Meth flourishes despite tracking laws – Yahoo! News.

Oops. It’s that damned law of unintended consequences again.

Most of these laws were enacted back in 2006 and in spite of them, or perhaps even because of them, meth production has been on the rise after that initial minor drop. By 2009 it had increased by 34% and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon:

The increase was higher in the three states that have electronically tracked sales of medication containing pseudoephedrine since at least 2008. Meth incidents rose a combined 67 percent in those states — 34 percent in Arkansas, 65 percent in Kentucky and 164 percent in Oklahoma.

Supporters of tracking say the numbers have spiked because the system makes it easier for police to find people who participate in meth production. But others question whether the tracking has helped make the problem worse by creating a new class of criminals that police must pursue.

Not only are more people making and using meth than ever before, but the laws have increased the number of people profiting from its production. Once again the Powers That Be are attempting to control the problem by cutting off the supply instead of dealing with the demand. So long as there are people out there providing a demand for meth the criminals will find a way to produce it and for every one we incarcerate there are a dozen more available to fill the void.