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Working group addresses rise in pharmacy robberies in Alberta

Pharmacy robberies have become more common across Alberta over the past year.

In response to the escalating crime trend, a provincial working group was created to address the problem.

“This is an issue that we have to take seriously and it’s very much a community concern,” said Greg Eberhart, registrar of the Alberta College of Pharmacy (ACP).

“We’re not only seeing the physical violence, but every case that occurs, the trauma does have a huge emotional effect on the individuals that are involved.

“We just have to step up some measures before somebody gets hurt.”

The group is comprised of police in both Edmonton and Calgary, the RCMP, ACP and the Alberta Pharmacist’s Association.

“We look at trends, what’s happening, not only (in) Alberta but other provinces as well,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Hilton with the EPS robberies section.

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“Recent pharmacy robberies have been take-over.”

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“The suspects will go behind the counter, demand pharmacist (to) open the safe and then load the drugs into a bag and then leave from there.”

The EPS said in 2019 there were eight pharmacy robberies. A trend emerged in 2020 when the number of robberies jumped to 18.

So far this year EPS said there have been 39 pharmacy robberies.

“There’s an elevated risk to pharmacists and witnesses and as far as weapons go, we have assorted weapons such as knives or handguns,” Hilton explained.

“The other thing we noticed is our offenders tend to be more mobile. Some of our offenders in Edmonton will end up in Calgary and vice versa — we’ve seen them pop up in Sherwood Park, Stony Plain.”

The group has come together to support pharmacies and give safety recommendations.

Those include:

  • Time-delayed safes to store narcotics
  • Providing pharmacy staff with panic alarms
  • Enhancing security cameras in pharmacies to deter offenders and help police
  • Installing physical security measures like remote-locking doors
  • Limiting the amount of cash and drugs on site.

“Anytime we have a community-based issue, the opportunity to partner and…to tackle a problem from multiple approaches is the only way to do it,” Eberhart said.

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“We haven’t seen something like this here in well over a decade, so we’re taking another look at it.”

The ACP is consulting on new standards which could be implemented sometime in 2022.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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