Police: Pharmacy robberies directly related to rise in drug use

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – According to U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Data from January to May, Indiana has reported 68 pharmacy robberies. In 2014, the state saw 78 reports of the same kind of crime in the whole year.

West Lafayette Pharmacist Ben Rachwal said these crimes are the talk amongst his peers.

“We’re always very concerned about it,” Rachwal said. “When our safety is at risk we’re always concerned.”

Rachwal said there have been no robberies or attempted robberies at his pharmacy, CustomPlus Pharmacy, in the four years it’s been at its Navajo Street location.

However, he said there is a safety plan in place. He did not want to disclose the full plan for the safety of the staff.

“We do have panic buttons all over the store,” Rachwal said. “So, we’re just a push button away from the police.”

Police said the large number of pharmacy robberies is directly related to the rise in drug use.

“I think they’re definitely connected,” Lafayette Police Lt. Brian Gossard said. “Especially, with heroin you have that correlation between the heroin and the opiates that are prescribed.”

News 18 contacted Lafayette Police Crime Analyst Steve Hawthorne to see how many pharmacy robberies occurred in Tippecanoe County in 2015. He said his data is not broken down into specific places where the robberies happened.

However, Gossard said the department has worked three pharmacy robberies this year. All three were at the the CVS Pharmacy on Old U.S. 231. Police said all were committed by the same group of suspects, and drug use was the motive.

“I think there was that drug element,” Gossard said. “They were users and that was the avenue they chose.”

Gossard said if you’re at a pharmacy where a robbery occurs, be a good witness. That means do not try to intervene, try to get a good suspect description, and call police as soon as you can.

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