How to Handle Pharmacy Robberies: Part 1

Pharmacy Times, October 2015 Diabetes, Volume 81, Issue 10

The frequency of pharmacy robberies has slowly risen over the past decade or so, with a recent upsurge in these dangerous crimes.

The frequency of pharmacy robberies has slowly risen over the past decade or so, with a recent upsurge in these dangerous crimes. I have always said that every armed robbery is a potential homicide. I know this is not a very settling statement to make, but it is unfortunately true. The good news is that a very low percentage of pharmacy robberies result in the death or injury of a pharmacy employee or customer.

I think one of the first orders of business is to get to know your local law enforcement officers. I cannot stress the importance of doing this, as the old “squeaky wheel gets the grease” adage applies very well to the retail pharmacy. Requesting them to come to your store and conduct a security check is one of the first steps to take to become more familiar with your officers and them with you. Larger police departments will likely have an officer or officers who work in some kind of crime prevention program and are easily equipped to provide you with this service. Even the smaller departments, however, may have a designated person working the day shift who can evaluate your store and point out the positive and negative issues that either protect you or make you more vulnerable to robberies and burglaries. Regardless, reach out to your local law enforcement and open the doors of communication before a robbery or other serious pharmacy crime occurs.

Once they have inspected your store, make sure you take care of the deficiencies within your budget and ask for them to come back and see that you have followed their suggestions. Many things, like making the counters and pharmacy more visible by relocating advertising signs and keeping your surveillance videos current, are of no or very little cost to the pharmacy, but can yield big results in prevention or prosecution if a robbery occurs.

Prevention of these crimes should be your first goal. Having an excellent surveillance camera system and announcing it at the front door can be a huge deterrent. This may mean cameras that can zoom in on license plates both in your parking lot and the drive-through. Surveillance cameras inside the store also need to be pointed at the customer as he or she stands at the retail or pharmacy counter. Letting patrons know when they come up to the cash register that a camera is fixed on them is only intimidating to those who would commit a crime inside your store.

No security system can totally stop pharmacy robberies and burglaries. So, if you have an armed robber in the store demanding all of your class II prescription drugs, oblige! This is not the time to try and be a hero or, if you are the owner, to worry about losing a few hundred dollars in stock. Your life and the lives of your employees and customers should come first! You must understand that a typical pharmacy robber is an addict and desperate to come into possession of something that you have behind you—your controlled substances. When you add a knife or gun to the mix, the goal should be to get the perpetrator out of your store as quickly as possible.

This does not mean you do not do all you can to get a good look at the person facing you so that you can identify him or her later or that you do not activate your alarm system that notifies your local law enforcement agency of an ongoing robbery. Some law enforcement agencies will set up a system in which an employee comes to the front door with a sign that indicates they have a false alarm; when no employee is present, law enforcement knows that a robbery is likely in progress. Officers and dispatch may elect to call the store to attempt to get an update or they may remain outside to prevent a violent encounter from happening inside.

I will have more tips next month. In the meantime, be safe!

Cmdr Burke is a 40-year veteran of law enforcement and the past president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. He can be reached by e-mail at burke@rxdiversion.com or via the website www.rxdiversion.com.