Arizona Walgreens effort to combat drug robberies

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- On Tuesday, every Walgreens in Arizona implemented a new tool they hope will help deter criminals out to steal sought-after painkillers.

OxyContin and Oxycodone are hot commodities for criminals who often turn around and resell them on the streets. Police said the street value of a single pill can range from $5 to $20.

"Just over the last few years we're reporting these kinds of robberies every day, you're hearing about it every day," said Phoenix Police Officer James Holmes.

Walgreens said its Arizona stores have been hit 47 times in just the last year.

"We've seen a significant upward trend in the robberies," said Michael Mirand, a regional loss prevention manager.

That's why the Illinois-based drug chain decided to implement time-delayed safes for OxyContin, Oxycodone and other select drugs in all of their Arizona stores.

The idea is to limit immediate availability of the drugs and thus increase the probability of a robber being caught.

If a criminal enters the store and demands the drugs, a pharmacist can turn a key but will not have any control over how long it will take for the cabinet of drugs to unlock. The idea is that would-be robbers will not want to wait and risk capture and will instead flee. 

"We hope the time delay aspect of the safe will give law enforcement time to respond to our stores accordingly and apprehend an individual who is engaged in the robbing of our pharmacy," Mirand said.   

Officer Holmes said there is always a chance the technique could have the opposite effect and cause a frustrated suspect to get violent with store personnel, but he said that is usually not the case with other businesses who employ the technology.

"We hope that the theory of 'in and out' is what dominates these kinds of robberies," Holmes said.

Walgreens said the time delay safes have already proven effective in five other states, reducing robberies by 84 percent.