Local pharmacy takes steps to prevent thefts, robberies

Jared Tucker

Pharmacy theft and robberies are on the rise across the country, and federal authorities say all communities should take the threat seriously.

Victor Baca, owner of Village Pharmacy in Portales, said he’s aware of the rising threat and is taking measures to ensure if he is ever robbed, his staff know what to do and the suspect gets caught.

“We’ve had training for our employees as to what to do in case of a robbery, hold-up or a threat while we are at work,” Baca said, “then after hours we have an alarm system.”

Prescription painkillers are the second-most common illegal drug problem behind marijuana, according to the Office of National Drug Policy.

“Communities must take this threat as seriously as the threat posed by street drugs like heroine and cocaine,” said Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Baca said he does have surveillance cameras inside his pharmacy, and he is taking further measures to address the threat but he would not elaborate.

Since the federal government does not track pharmacy robberies, and states vary on how some crimes are classified, there are no official numbers on how many pharmacies are robbed nationwide.

States like Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma have all seen an alarming number of pharmacy robberies and thefts, several that have turned deadly.

But it’s not just the threat of being robbed that has federal officials concerned. Pharmacy employees are often the ones stealing the drugs, officials said, citing the case of a woman in Missouri who stole more than 49,000 doses of oxycodone.

Baca said he has several high-tech safeguards to ensure his employees aren’t getting sticky fingers, like laser-counting machines, an automatic dispenser which stores over 200 medications, and a three-check system for narcotics. Baca said narcotics are counted three times after a prescription is filled; once by the machine, once by the pharmacy technician and again by a different technician.

The supply bottle is also counted to ensure accuracy.

Portales Deputy Police Chief Lonnie Berry said he can’t remember his department ever receiving a call about pharmacy-related crimes.

“Any drug abuse is a problem. But the abuse of prescription drugs is not a major issue that we deal with,” Berry said.