Pharmacy robberies continue to plague Windsor

Despite months of work to reduce the risk of robberies for Windsor area pharmacies, thieves continue to target them often in search of opioids.

Opioids still a frequent target for thieves hitting drug dispensaries

Police allege this man stole prescription drugs from a Windsor pharmacy on March 7, 2017. (Windsor Police Service)

Drug dispensaries in Windsor-Essex continue to be targeted by thieves and pharmacists say the problem is getting worse.

Pharmacists, in tandem with police, have attempted with only limited success to confront the issue with increased video surveillance, physical storefront changes and the conducting of risk assessments.

"Critical and urgent and a crisis," said Heather Foley, the President of the Essex County Pharmacists' Association.
Heather Foley, President of the Essex County Pharmacists' Association, says time delay safes are a possible solution for the problem of robberies. (Supplied)

Foley's association first started pushing strategies to put an end to pharmacy robberies in July 2016.

"When that first started back in July of last year, we were not in a point of crisis," said Foley. "And I can say in the past eight months ... the robberies are increasing."

The Pharmacists' Association is hoping to hold a meeting with police and area pharmacists in the coming months to discuss possible solutions, new to this region, such as time delayed safes.

Windsor Police say it's too early to say whether existing prevention tactics are having enough of an impact. The increase in opioid abuse through Windsor-Essex may be a factor, said Barry Horrobin, director of planning and physical resources for Windsor Police.

Barry Horrobin shows the proper depth of pharmacy counters to prevent criminals from jumping over, in a demonstration from November 2016. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"There's a real spike in the types of drugs that are being sought after by criminals and many of them are found in prescription drugs," said Horrobin.

Essentially, more illegal opioid use means pharmacies have a bigger target painted on them. 

"They're not readily available anywhere else," said Horrobin, adding that time delayed safes could increase pharmacist safety because potential robbers would know they could not obtain drugs quickly.

Those on the front lines say the real motivation for these robberies needs to be addressed.

"We have to get to the root of why people are doing it," said Essex County pharmacist Tim Brady.

He said pharmacists need to be aware of patients who may be experiencing problems with addiction, and that can help give them the awareness to protect themselves in the workplace.

Brady, who is a board member with the Ontario Pharmacists Association, also pins the blame for the spike in robberies on the increase in drug abuse and opioid addiction in Windsor and Essex County.

"My own personal view is it's more of a social issue," said Brady.

"At what point in your life have you been to that this kind of forces you to make this as a good rational choice?"