Police, pharmacists meet to discuss armed robberies
Newfoundland and Labrador's police forces and its pharmacists' association have agreed to improve safety after last week's spike in armed robberies at drugstores on the Avalon Peninsula.
Three robberies, involving guns, have sent a chill of fear through people who work in the pharmacy industry.
The RCMP and the Royal Newfoundland Constbulary and the Pharmacists' Association of NL met Wednesday, and agreed the overall robbery rate is not increasing. However, both groups say they will be taking steps to improve security in drugstores.
Margot Priddle, Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board registrar, said the recent incidents don't necessarily represent a dangerous new trend.
"It just seems to me that there was a bit of a spike last week, but it's a bit of an anomaly — it doesn't seem to be related to anything in particular," said Priddle.
On average, there's a robbery committed at a pharmacy in this province every month. However, with the latests incidents involving guns, it's especially frightening for pharmacy staff.
"Without a doubt, it is a problem. It's escalating. We're moving more from standard break-in type of approach to an armed robbery," Priddle said.
The police forces said they will assess drug stores to find ways to beef up security and increase patrols, while pharmacy owners say they'll seek ways to train staff in how to stay safe during a robbery.
Stephen Reid, the association's executive director, said it's time to tackle what he sees as the source of the problem — growing addiction rates.
Reid said he's pushing to have the provincial government "talk about how to combat some of the addiction problems that are surfacing in the city, and how to mitigate that."
"There's an assumption that it could be around the addiction issues that we face in our society, but it could also be a matter of people needing money, and money fast."
Reid said keeping pharmacists safe at work will be a major focus at the association's upcoming annual general meeting next month.
"The pharmacist is actually a licenced-health professional in the province — and an important one — and they need to be accessible. We can't close them off completely, but we can work on ways of how to mitigate how these robberies occur."