Pharmacy robberies continue; companies acknowledge problem isn’t going away

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A spate of a pharmacy robberies in the Indianapolis area this week has renewed concerns about those responsible and the efforts to stop them.

To date, there have been more than 150 pharmacy robberies in the Indianapolis area. This week, there have been seven, which caps off a busy month for authorities.

While police cannot pinpoint an exact cause for the high number of robberies, I-Team 8 has interviewed more than a half dozen law enforcement officials over the past month who have all shared the same theory – that Indiana’s struggle with heroin and prescription narcotics has created a high black market demand for more prescription pills on the streets.

On Thursday, Lawrence Police arrested two suspects – ages 20 and 17 – for an attempted robbery at a Walgreens pharmacy on North Shadeland Ave. Deputy Police Chief Curtis Bigsbee said the same Walgreens store had been targeted two days earlier with an unsuccessful robbery attempt. When a pharmacy tech did not notice the note the suspects were planning to use to demand the drugs, the two suspects left, Bigsbee said.

That’s when authorities set up surveillance thinking the store might be targeted again.

When pharmacy employees noticed two suspects in the store on Thursday, Bigsbee said police were called able to make quick arrests because they were already in the area.

“We were able to find a letter that implied that they wanted certain prescriptions from the pharmacy,” Bigsbee said.

On Tuesday, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department apprehended a 12-year old suspect for allegedly robbing a Walgreens on North Keystone Ave.

This trend of young teens being implicated in pharmacy robberies has led authorities to believe that many of them are being recruited by adults to carry out these crimes – sometimes for a cut of the money gained by selling the prescription pills.

“A lot of these older adults are taking advantage of children to have them act on their behalf. So in some of these cases, they are treated with a lesser crime in juvenile court,” Bigsbee said.

Marion County Juvenile Judge Marilyn Moores acknowledged Friday that she has seen an increase in the number of teenage suspects entering her courtroom charged in connection with pharmacy robberies.

Bren Doyle, a Walgreens customer who agreed to talk to I-Team 8 about her concerns, said she knows it’s a problem.

“I’m a teacher,  so that is just like really mind-blowing that kids that young are already getting involved in that stuff,” Doyle said.

Late last month, CVS installed time-delay safes in an effort to deter additional robberies. Before accessing drugs, pharmacists must first activate the safes which can take several minutes to open. Walgreens installed the safes more than a year ago. A company spokesman, Phil Caruso, told I-Team 8 that in general they have seen some success in reducing pharmacy robberies in the 13 states where they are installed.

But Caruso acknowledged Friday that the robberies are “still an issue.”

“We continue to take this very seriously. We are increasing our security in the stores,” Caruso said.

Bigsbee said he is “concerned” that the time-delay safes might not be discouraging criminals from robbery stores.

Michael DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman, declined to comment when asked about that, saying that the time-delay safes were installed less than a month ago and that “it would be premature for us to comment on an overall trend.”

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