Attempts to decipher drug and drug-dealing culture by outsiders are doomed to sound hopelessly square. It's like "The Great Grunge Hoax of 1992," when the New York Times was duped into thinking kids actually said things like "Swingin' on the flippity-flop!" You have to take reports about drug dealer codes and hidden criminal symbols with a big grain of salt: someone might just be messing with you, dude.
That said, the list below is full of alleged drug dealer communication techniques, tricks, and signals drug dealers use. The sources are all police, anonymous dealers, or legit undercover reporters. Still, you might want to ask a savvy friend before swingin' on the flippity-flop and casually dropping these facts into conversation. This stuff is a secret for a reason, yo.
Shoe Tossing May Or May Not Mean Something
There's a fair amount of disagreement as to whether or not shoe tossing - the custom of tying two shoes together by the laces and throwing them over a telephone wire - means anything in the drug world. According to io9, Snopes debunked the myth of shoe tossing as an indication of drug dealing activity. However, Snopes only explicitly debunks shoes-on-wires as a sign of gang turf or activity, and, as you may know, gangs aren't the only enterprises that sell drugs.
A 2003 letter from the office of the mayor of Los Angeles states "Many Los Angeles residents fear that these shoes indicate sites at which drugs are sold..." While the fears of residents hardly confirm a direct association between shoe tossing and drug dealers, the city and community organizations undertook a massive effort to cut down shoes from telephone wires all over East Los Angeles. However, the Snohomish Regional Drug & Gang Task Force of Everett, WA, which deals mostly with meth labs, claims to have never seen shoe tossing as an indication of drug availability or dealer activity.
Regardless of whether shoe tossing is connected to drug dealing in some instances, that's hardly the only thing it indicates. Shoes hanging from wires may indicate lost virginity, someone in the military passing basic training, school graduation, an upcoming marriage, or death. It's also possible someone got fed up with their shoes and decided to do something fun with them.
'Elbow' Is A Pound Of Weed, Among Lots Of Code Words
Lou Savelli, founder of the NYPD’s gang unit, compiled 5,000-plus words and phrases of gang slang for a book called Gang Related: Signs, Signals and Slang of Modern Gangs and Organized Crime. Many, naturally, are drug-related, and pretty clever. An “elbow,” for example, is slang for a pound of weed (or at least it was at one point during Savelli’s long career; a lot of his work was during the ‘90s.) Why an “elbow”? It’s a offshoot of “lb.”
Some other terms in Savelli's dictionary include fat boris (a man who poses as a woman online to scam people), drinking milk (targeting or killing a rival), and Picasso (slicing up someone's face in prison).
Pocket Flashlights Signal Potential Buyers
In 2002, the Washington City Paper reported on a code dealers were using in DC. Wielding pocket-sized or keychain flashlights, dealers flashed to oncoming cars, signaling drug availability to potential buyers and warning other dealers of police in the area. Sometimes, a color code was used to help buyers. "Red [lights] means the police are coming, blue is for cocaine, and green is for weed,” a former dealer told the paper.
Some Dealers Advertise 'Pain Relief' On CraigslistPhoto: Craigslist
Even after the NYPD busted 21 dealers for selling on Craigslist in 2012, it’s shockingly easy to find them on the site. The Daily Dot reports heroin has also been sold on the site as "pain relief" and "high quality diesel pain relief," among other terms and listings.