Perspective provided on recent spate of robberies targeting drugstores
A meeting this week involving police and representatives of the provincial pharmacy industry offered insight into the prevalence of robberies targeting such businesses, according to those who attended.
“It provided a little bit more perspective in terms of the overall statistics, because of course when there’s a bunch of robberies occurring, people think that it’s automatically increasing,” said Stephen Reid, executive director of the Pharmacists’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL).
“And it may be so, but there’s also a difference between the statistics of what is reported and what’s not reported. They did say what was reported is basically the same as what it was last year, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to increase at all.”
Representatives from PANL, the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the RCMP met in St. John’s Tuesday to discuss drug-motivated pharmacy robberies.
The meeting follows a week in which there were media reports about three armed robberies at pharmacies on the Avalon Peninsula.
The RNC provided statistics specific to the St. John’s metro area, according to Reid.
Pharmacy board registrar Margot Priddle told The Telegram in an email that her board has found this year that, on average, pharmacies have experienced one break-in or robbery per month.
Reid said police offered several helpful suggestions for ways pharmacies can aid police work.
Police are recommending pharmacies use security cameras with higher megapixel ratings, a move that would make it easier to identify suspects caught on camera.
“That’s more likely to be a part of a successful conviction than a grainy video,” said Reid.
Police also suggested that cameras be situated in areas outside the store, covering every exit. Lighting considerations, too, should be taken into account.
Reid said police have found almost all pharmacies targeted in robberies have been cased or scoped out beforehand. Therefore, pharmacy staff need to watch for suspicious behaviour.
“The biggest suggestion that came out of the meeting was that pharmacies should always be aware of who is a little bit suspicious in a store and just walking around, not buying anything and really just mapping out the place,” said Reid.
Reid said he was told by police there is no noticeable pattern for the time of day robberies targeting pharmacies take place.
A request was made for increased police visibility near pharmacies. Reid said law enforcement representatives at the meeting agreed to that request.
“Everyone is feeling very vulnerable at this moment,” said Reid.
Priddle said the board and PANL intend to work together on drafting a revised document with tips and procedures on how pharmacy operators can help prevent break-ins and robberies and what to do during such an incident.
The RNC will also take part in an education talk during PANL’s annual conference scheduled for next month.
Priddle said police will also conduct a security assessment at any pharmacy that requests one.
PANL will soon look to meet with the Department of Health and Community Services to discuss addiction treatment in the province and the need for more resources to help drug addicts.
Reid said he spoke with the office of Health Minister Susan Sullivan last week and plans to send a letter later this week.