Windsor police pitch new tools to fight pharmacy robberies

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.

Police want to make sure pharmacists are on board with new technology before revealing plans publicly

In this March 8 robbery, a man believed to be in his 20s brandished a knife and made off with prescription drugs. (Windsor Police Service)

Windsor police officials are proposing some innovative strategies to combat the steady pace of pharmacy robberies that have plagued store owners and staff for more than a year.

While crime in general, in Windsor, has been on a constant decline in recent years, the number of pharmacies being robbed has remained steady, say police, who met with pharmacists from throughout the region Wednesday evening.

The meeting was held in private in order to ensure pharmacists agree with the new strategies before going public, explained Barry Horrobin, director of planning and physical resources with Windsor police.

"We're going to talk about a few things that are new and have never been tried yet," he said. "We want to make sure everyone in the pharmacy industry is comfortable with some of these things."

The Essex County Pharmacists' Association raised alarm bells about the robberies in July 2016. Working in tandem with police, they have had limited success with increased video surveillance, physical storefront changes and risk assessments.

Association president Heather Foley was eager to meet with police and learn about the new proposed strategies. 

"They are the specialists at crime prevention and at knowing all of the preventative measures, so we want to learn from them ... and make sure our pharmacies in Windsor-Essex remain as safe as possible," she said.

Horrobin said police will be borrowing "new technologies" being used in other regions to try to reduce the number of robberies, which are partly fuelled by the widespread use of opioids.

Police representatives from throughout the county were at the meeting as well to share their insights about pharmacy robberies they've investigated. 

"This is not a conventional type of environment where crime and disorder occurs, so therefore it requires a more customized approach to addressing it," Horrobin said.