If you take them at face value, the vending machines are harmless pen dispensers — just put in $2 in quarters and the machine spits one out.
But makeshift crack pipes are what actually come out of the vending machines, three of which have mysteriously appeared around Suffolk County in New York’s Long Island, according to authorities in the Town of Brookhaven. Officials suspect the dispensers were installed last week.
“It is an interesting situation: Is it a pen? is it drug paraphernalia?” Dean Murray, a New York Assemblyman, said at a news conference Monday. “I don’t remember ever buying a pen that came with a pack of filters, so I think it’s pretty obvious.”
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said town officials learned of the crack pipe dispensers on Sunday.
The vending machines were initially reported to authorities as pen dispensers, Councilman Michael Loguercio said. Because it’s the first week of school in the community, Loguercio said some thought that was a real possibility.
Then a firefighter used the machine, realized what it dispensed wasn’t an ordinary pen and called town officials, authorities said.
Officials said they believe the machines were all put there by the same person or people.
Town officials tried to demonstrate how the vending machine worked at the press conference, but it got jammed after Loguercio put in eight quarters. Officials also disassembled one of the makeshift pipes and explained how someone could use the tool to smoke crack.
“It’s a crack pipe,” Romaine said, holding up one of the items at the news conference. “It’s a ceramic, glass pipe disguised as a pen … There’s a filter in there that you use to smoke crack.”
The vending machines were held in place with cement and appeared rather elaborate, which led officials to guess it wasn’t just a joke.
“It’s a lot of work to do for a prank,” Loguercio said.
The town said it removed two of the dispensers that were in the public right of way, and would hand them over to police and prosecutors to investigate. The other dispenser is on private property and will be part of the investigation.
An attorney for the city said that, at the very least, putting the vending machines in the public right of way is a town code violation. Whether it’s a penal code violation and criminal act will be determined by police and prosecutors, the attorney said.
“There are some people who think they’re going to make some money out of this and prey on a community and promote drug use in a community,” Romaine said. “They’re going to be sadly mistaken.”
Scott Malz posted a video on Facebook over the weekend showing someone using one of the vending machines when they were still up — and the video has now been shared more than 1,000 times, and viewed more than 80,000 times.
“That’s what we get,” the man in the video says after the makeshift pipe pops out. “Pretty much a crack stem … It’s not much of a pen. It’s ridiculous.”
Neighbors who live near the dispensers were upset about the situation.
”We’ve been here for three years,” said Danielle Blom, whose apartment in Medford, New York, is near one of the vending machines, according to ABC 13. “We’ve never had any problems, and now this. So it’s pretty disgusting.”