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Cough Syrup Burglaries

  • January 25, 2017
  • RPh on the Go

cough syrup burglaryAfter several burglaries at area pharmacies, police in Tustin, California, turned to a new tool in their arsenal: GPS technology.

A police department crime analyst looked at the date and location of previous pharmacy burglaries in the Los Angeles suburb to try to discover patterns. They decided that the Creative Compounding Pharmacy on Newport Street looked like a likely site for a future burglary, and set their trap.

With the store owner Denise Taylor’s permission, the police department planted a bottle of cough syrup on the pharmacy shelf. But this was no ordinary bottle of cough syrup: hidden inside was a GPS tracker. For several months, it sat on the shelf, until two men broke into the store on November 10 and stole it.

After several days of tracking the cough syrup bottle and covert observation, police arrested Willie James Clark, 21, and Brian Vega Salinas.

It was the first time a GPS tracker had been used for pharmaceuticals, but they had been used successfully on delivery packages, cars, and bicycles. Over 100 thieves have been apprehended by the Tustin police with GPS devices.

More pharmacy busts are sure to follow, though. Pharmacies are an increasingly tempting target for thieves. Just in the first five months of 2015, 382 U.S. pharmacies reported armed robberies or burglaries—and 31 were in California.

Most experts agree that the cause of the increase in robberies is due at least in part to an increase in the abuse of prescription opiates, such as oxycodone, Xanax, Valium, and Percocet. Another reason is the increase of so-called “track-and-trace” laws that eliminate anonymous access to over the counter drugs that can be used to manufacture methamphetamines. Such laws also keep opiate abusers from obtaining their drug of choice from multiple pharmacies in a short period of time.

In response to the increase in robberies, some pharmacies are taking precautions such as installing time delay safes, in-store security guards, and GPS devices. Thieves, in turn, are responding to these increased safety measures by targeting easier marks: the delivery vans that ferry pharmaceuticals from warehouses to pharmacies and hospitals. GPS trackers can be easily placed in delivery vans, though, so that’s a likely next move for law enforcement officials.

Ensuring your pharmacy is safe and preventing thefts is important, though difficult. Make sure you talk with your team of pharmacy staff to create or stay updated on necessary precautions.

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