Ken Mara is president and CEO of World Wide Security of Garden City, NY
Around the country, an epidemic as big as the population of New Mexico is creeping into cities and suburbs. The addiction cycle begins in a doctor’s office and is creating bloodshed in the streets…any street USA. The epidemic is prescription drug abuse.
This problem didn’t happen overnight and it will not be solved quickly. This month, 100+ pharmacy owners met at the very first Pharmacy Security Summit held at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage, New York. The FBI, state and local government representatives, narcotics law enforcement representatives, Purdue Pharma L.P., the makers of OxyContin®, and addiction specialists were all there to provide greater insight into how to make going to work as a pharmacist safer.
Scanning the room, these pharmacists were neighborhood business owners, serving their communities for decades. Surprisingly, the big box stores, I did not encounter. I dismissed this as a segment of the market that knew what to do when it came to security programs. I was wrong. The larger box stores do not want to carry or handle the opiate-based prescriptions; the smaller pharmacies were serving a niche market that was very profitable and are paying dearly for it.
Providing Customized Security Solutions
As a Honeywell Authorized dealer, there are many product solutions we recommend to our pharmacy customers. From personalized panic buttons that integrate with a camera surveillance system to provide a video/audio solution sent directly into our command central station, to wireless indoor asset protection products to help prevent loss of inventory, this is a security solution designed to provide an additional layer of protection for the pharmacists and patrons. We are also able to stream video from our central station to a police or law enforcement team responding to a call. We hope to never see this service used in an actual emergency, but it is here and available NOW for over 250 independent pharmacies on Long Island.
The Summit did echo the same sentiment over and over again: It is a very sophisticated drug abuser who is able to obtain these drugs and they hit these locations with ease. Did you know that 64 percent of these robberies are committed by one person, the remainder carried out by two people? This makes it very hard on law enforcement to track as some of these people are travelling great distances to fill prescriptions. Another interesting statistic-87 percent of the robberies come from those entering the front door and when the crime happens it goes down very quickly.
A pharmacist I spoke with said he has been fearful of customers on a regular basis. It is easier, he said, to just fill the prescription than to risk the fallout of a confrontation. After all, he said, there would be endless confrontations as many of these scripts look like they have been tampered with.
Prescription drug addicts, according to the addition specialists in attendance, are very desperate people. This is why pharmacy crimes in New York, in 2012, accounted for 6,780 incidents reported and 2,220 robberies. These numbers were provided by Edward Cartwright, Law Enforcement Liaison at Purdue Pharma. Let’s remember, these stats are for this year, and the year has only just begun.
New York Congressman and Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Peter King, commented, “There is no one answer to the problem, no one method will work. There must be a multi-layered approach.” He pointed out the rise in crime at pharmacies is creating more crime on the streets. One happens and so does the other, he said, and it has found its way into our once safe neighborhoods and quiet family pharmacies, turning them into dangerous battlegrounds.
The Nassau County District Attorney, Kathleen Rice, also addressed the crowd. She has been at the forefront of fighting alcohol-related driving deaths in the county and has recognized our area is suffering from a heroin problem of epidemic proportions. My office has met with her and her staff to better understand the issues so we can translate this knowledge into better serving our pharmacy clients. Rice has also sponsored community discussions on heroin and is responsible for the formation of the Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force. A spokesperson for the task force, in attendance, stated, “We cannot arrest our way out of this epidemic.”
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