Memories of the Crack-Filled 80’s and Murder Rates

I spotted this vial on the street the other day. I remembered the 1980’s, when I’d walk out of my apartment in the morning, on my way to work, and the street would be littered with crack vials like this. It was an insane time. An average of 1,685 people were murdered a year then, peaking in 1990, when 2,245 were murdered. The crack epidemic is always blamed for these murder rates except I just looked at the 1970’s. An average of 1,556 were murdered every year in that decade. So it was already really bad. If crack was responsible for the rise it was not a big rise, murder rates were already high!

I’m guessing this vial didn’t hold crack. Maybe a perfume sample?

Vial on the Street, New York City

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

6 thoughts on “Memories of the Crack-Filled 80’s and Murder Rates

  1. My first trips to NYC were in 1977 and 78-ish – the annual Queen’s art history department field trips! We stayed at the Taft and didn’t dare go out much at night. The room I shared with 3 other girls was even burgled by a hotel thief – I caught him in the act. Such excitement! But yes, NYC was a different place back then.

  2. I spent a few days in NYC in 1975 with my high school’s UN Club. We stayed at the Hotel Edison. One of my friends (and hotel roommate) was speaking to some male stranger in the lobby and answered all kinds of questions he had about how long we were staying, what we were doing, etc. I was horrified that she had told him so much – call me crazy, but I insisted that we stack all our empty soft drink cans in front of the door at night as some sort of alarm system! Ha!

  3. Nora, great idea about the soft drink cans! In my story, we were all out of the room when I remembered something I needed so I went running back up to the room by myself. As I put my key in the door, it opened and a man in (I swear it is true) a trench coat and fedora, was standing there. He said something about checking the heating and brushed by me and walked off down the hall. I called after him, “wait a minute!” and he started to run! I ran after him! What was I thinking. He disappeared down the stairwell (I think we were on the 9th floor) and I ran back to the room and called the lobby. Such excitement. We didn’t have anything to steal – we were poor students! Nothing came of it, he was not caught and no police were involved. But it makes for a great story.

  4. I guess the Edison has been renovated since then, but I stayed there a couple of times in the 70s with my UN Club, and then again in the early 80s on a study week trip with the Ontario College of Art. If I’m not mistaken, Oh Calcutta! was playing in the Edison Theatre next door. From our window, we had a view of some storefront where women would sit in the window and try to entice men to enter. What could they possibly have wanted?? (Ha!) I don’t remember much about the rooms – as the Edison likely catered to school trips back then, they weren’t luxurious, and, like most NY hotel rooms, weren’t very big. And no one worried at all about bed bugs back then, did they? You couldn’t beat the location – although I stayed there back in the days when Times Square didn’t cater to families. It was full of “discount” electronics/camera stores and peep shows.
    Another hotel I stayed at a couple of times was the old Commodore Hotel on 42nd Street, near Lexington, I think. My mother & brother & I took a couple of bus tours to New York for Easter. Again, during a time when New York was not such a friendly, welcoming place. The Commodore is long gone – isn’t it some kind of Trump monstrosity now? I also remember my brother convincing my mother that we should eat at Tad’s Steak House on 42nd St. It was always difficult trying to figure out where to eat so my mother was happy enough to go there. My brother still has fond memories of the place.
    One last memory… (I won’t get cut off if I go over a certain number of characters, will I?) My art school (OCA) had a “campus” (well, one floor of an old warehouse building) in NYC and they had a party one night when we were all there on our trip. At one point, one of the young female students appeared, completely naked, except for a string of Christmas lights, and danced to Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.” Being art students, we were all used to drawing nude models, but still…

    And Julia, you were brave! The guy didn’t lie very well if he though you’d buy that he was checking the heating in a fedore and trenchcoat!

    Stacy, sorry to have hijacked your blog. I should get my own, right? Ha.

  5. No, that was great!! Thank you for taking the time to write it. I’m cracking up over that art school dancing naked to, of all things, Debby Boone. I was also an art student, so naked bodies, no big deal, but huh??

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