Police caution pharmacies amid spike in robbery

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Published March 28, 2022 at 11:32 am

An ongoing spike in pharmacy robberies has led Durham police to spend the weekend cautioning businesses on how to protect themselves.

Pharmacies have become a frequent target of robberies, mostly in attempt to steal narcotics, in recent months.

A robbery in October saw four men enter the Eastview IDA Pharmacy in Oshawa armed with knives, assault two employees and make off with an unspecified amount of drugs. Search warrants were later executed in Barrie and Toronto, resulting in charges against two men. Another raid in Mississauga in December ended in the arrest of a 15-year-old boy.

Later on January 25 and January 26, two pharmacies and a cellphone store in Ajax and Pickering were each targeted by three men. No one was harmed in the pharmacy robberies, but an employee of the phone store was assaulted. At the time, police were working to establish if the three robberies were connected.

Then on February 17, another three pharmacies were all robbed in Ajax, Oshawa and Whitby in a brief span of time. An employee of the IDA Guardian Pharmacy on Church St N in Ajax was assaulted.

Nearly a month later, a pharmacy in Whitby was hit just before opening on February 24. A man allegedly broke in and stole prescription drugs, but was caught when an employee arrived to work. He reportedly pointed a fake gun at the employee as he ran from the scene. A man was arrested a short while later.

More recently, on March 7, two teenagers allegedly tried to rob a pharmacy in Oshawa. When their attempt failed, police say the pair hopped into a waiting getaway car and sped off down Highway 401.

Durham Police helicopter Air1 was brought in to pursue the teens, spotting them in Pickering. Air1 followed the car into Markham where the teens were arrested outside another pharmacy.

Finally, on March 8, three men robbed a pharmacy in Pickering, stealing narcotics and injuring an employee’s face.

As a result of these incidents, police kicked off their Robbery Awareness Initiative on March 26. Investigators with the DRPS Robbery Unit and DRPS Auxiliary members canvassed local pharmacies to spread information on how to safeguard themselves amid this rise in crime.

Officers offered numerous tips to businesses on how to protect themselves. They recommend organizing the store’s layout to eliminate blind-spots, installing CCTV cameras to monitor the store and posting signage to deter would-be robbers.

Additionally, DRPS says to keep sightlines through aisles clear and to keep displays below eye level. Window displays should also be below eye level and take up less than 30 per cent of the window, so employees can see outside to monitor those approaching the store. Furthermore, police advise on their website to keep all doors locked, including to garbage disposal areas.

“Thieves prefer darkness,” police said when recommending nighttime lights, “If your business is lit up, they will move on to the next business. An inexpensive light bulb is one of your best forms of security.”

They also said a business’ landscaping is important to consider, “Overgrown hedges, bushes and trees are an advantage for criminals.”

They recommend keeping unobstructed views to the street by keeping trees out of the sightline and trimmed at least seven feet off the ground. Shrubs should be six feet from the store, and hedges should be six inches lower than the storefront window.

Police said following these and other tips listed on their advisory, can help businesses protect their valuables and profits from would-be thieves or robbers by deterring crime, and collecting enough evidence should a crime occur. If it does police remind business to remain calm, lock the doors, stop serving customers, and call 911.

“Think like a criminal”, DRPS said, advising business owners to case their own joint and discover security weaknesses.

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