MILWAUKIE, Ore. – A drug, nicknamed “Hillbilly Heroin” is powerful and addictive and it’s turning local pharmacies into a target for crime.
Over the last couple of years images have been splashed on television of robbers - some of them armed - holding up pharmacies. In some cases they show robbers jumping over the counter in takeover style crimes.
The crimes are violent considering the robbers are just after pills on the other side of the counter. But it’s a particular pill – the pain reliever Oxycontin – that all those robbers are after.
“It just has really strong addiction properties,” says pharmacist Rochelle Davis, who works at the Walgreens in Milwaukie. So far she’s been lucky. “I haven’t been (robbed), but the night pharmacist here was robbed about a few months ago. She was very scared.”
She says she really hasn’t been trained on how to deal with a robber.
“I’ve just been told, give it to them,” she says.
It’s not the sort of thing people in the industry expected to face after going to school for essentially a white collar job.
So to improve the safety of its pharmacies for employees and customers, Walgreens is investing in a series of security measures that include higher-quality security cameras and monitors, signage to let would-be robbers know they’re being watched and specially designed safes with bright labels on them that read: “Warning: Time Delay Safe. There is a waiting period before opening.”
Pharmacists store Oxycontin in those safes.
Carole Watson-Stover, the loss prevention manager for Walgreens, says it works as a deterrent. She doesn’t want to publicize how long the delay lasts but says it should be a major disincentive for robbers since it keeps them in the store longer.
“We needed to increase their risk and reduce the chance that we are going to get robbed,” she says. “It’s worked in Washington and what, they’ve been installed six weeks, two months – and not a robbery.”
It’s significant because Washington was number one in the country last year for Walgreens pharmacy robberies (at two a week).
Davis says she understands her company’s motives for the safes but worries about unintended consequences.
“I worry that if they come in and I can’t open the safe immediately, and they get angry because a lot of them when they come in, they’re on drugs already,” she says. “It can cause problems that can harm me. That’s the only concern I have.”
It turns out Walgreens’ strategy isn’t foolproof - at least in Oregon. Davis’ pharmacy was robbed Wednesday at 3:30 a.m.
Police say Joshua Jewsbury handed over a note and demanded Oxycontin. They say Walgreens employees gave him a less powerful derivative, Oxycodone, but he left without noticing the difference.
Jewsbury was arrested a short time later and now faces one count of second-degree robbery.
By Anna Canzano KATU News and KATU.com Staff
Oct 27, 2010
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