For all these reasons and our own personal safety and that of our staff, we have a duty as pharmacists to “limit the violence” in our workplace.
Following the release of the latest 2016 DEA robbery figures, I compiled and published a story on the 2016 National Pharmacy Armed Robbery figures.
As I was preparing this report I noticed and others have asked me as well, “what’s going on in Wisconsin?” In 2015, the State of Wisconsin was third in the nation with 45 pharmacy armed robberies. In 2016, the state dropped to 31st in the nation with only 6 pharmacy robberies. That’s 39 fewer robberies than in the previous year or a 750% decrease.
A quick check on the internet gave me this hit, and media story “ Wisconsin AG Unveils New Effort to Prevent Pharmacy Robberies.” This report goes on to explain how Wisconsin Attorney General, Brad Schimel, along with the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin and law enforcement have formed a "comprehensive pharmacy robbery prevention and response training program."
I was granted a telephone interview with Attorney General Schimel, and during the interview, he told me, “we have a strong relationship with the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin and have been working closely with them for the past 3 years. Certainly it was the high numbers (robberies) in 2014/2015 that concerned us. It’s probably been in the last 6 months that we have been working most intensively with them and this program.”
Schimel indicated the robbery program focuses on the following:
According to Schimel, “This is a program that is reproducible anywhere.”
I also spoke with Danielle Laurent, Directory of Public Affairs, with the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin. There are a number of other elements of their successful program that are not being made public “so that our playbook is not exposed” but which are available to interested law enforcement and Attorney General Offices and Pharmacy groups.
It should also be noted at this time that in 2015 and 2016 there were no successful pharmacy armed robberies in South Bend, Indiana and at a time when the state set an all-time record with 168 (2015, number 1) robberies and is currently 2nd in the nation (77, 2016). I attribute this success to the law enforcement partnership and a pharmacy crime watch (PCW) I established there and as detailed in my 2013 book, “Staring Down the Barrel: a pharmacists’ guide to diversion and coping with robbery.”
I congratulate this cooperative and successful Wisconsin group. This group, and the efforts in South Bend, illustrate that you can make a difference by working together with law enforcement.
Unfortunately, my previous resident state of Indiana continues to be the leading state for pharmacy armed robbery over the last 5 years (499 robberies DEA figures) and we see continued leakage of vast amounts of narcotics into the community, despite numerous calls for action.
Stolen narcotics everywhere are a cost to society in many way. Most abusers purchasing and dealing these stolen, illicit narcotics commit other crimes — robbery, home invasions, etc. — to fund their addictions. Pharmacy staff are at risk during these thefts and many have ongoing psychological trauma as a result. The human cost of narcotic abuse and overdose deaths is an ongoing tragedy for families, and narcotic opioid addiction is sweeping the nation and takes more lives annually than heroin addiction. For all these reasons and our own personal safety and that of our staff, we have a duty as pharmacists to “limit the violence” in our workplace.
I remind pharmacists everywhere of the APhA oath: “I will hold myself and my colleagues to the highest principles of our profession’s moral, ethical and legal conduct.”
As pharmacists, we have a duty to take action to control and limit the losses of dangerous narcotics to the criminal element. These examples illustrate that we can do that if we choose to.