Calgary pharmacist who was robbed hopes use of time-delay safes will reduce crime

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Calgary pharmacist hopes use of time-delay safes will reduce crime
The Alberta College of Pharmacy is requiring all community pharmacies to store narcotics and other high-risk drugs in time-delay safes as part of efforts to reduce robberies. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Jun 6, 2022

The Alberta College of Pharmacy is requiring all community pharmacies to store narcotics and other high-risk drugs in time-delay safes as part of efforts to reduce robberies.

The ACP together with the Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, hosted a media conference in Calgary on Monday to announce the changes to standards in response to the increase of armed robberies of pharmacies in Alberta.

The president of the ACP said these changes will make a significant difference in enhancing the safety of pharmacy teams, their patients and their communities.

Most workers don’t have to worry about being robbed at knife-point when they go into the office, but unfortunately, that’s something pharmacists are thinking about in Alberta.

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“You hear about it happening all the time, but you never expect that in a busy professional building on a Wednesday morning that you’re going to get robbed,” Randy Howden, a Calgary pharmacist and owner of the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Sunridge and Crowfoot, said.

On May 25 — while at the Crowfoot location — he said two men came in and jumped onto the counter.  He added that both men had knives and demanded narcotics.

“We had one customer in the store but luckily nobody was physically injured,” Howden said. “Mental injuries are another story.”

He said it was a traumatizing experience for the pharmacy team.

“You hear in the media that nobody was harmed but that just means nobody was physically harmed. There’s a lot of mental trauma that happens to the pharmacy teams after they’ve been robbed,” Howden said.

The criminals didn’t get away with much because — like at most pharmacies in Calgary — there is a time-delay safe at the pharmacy. Those safes won’t open right after entering the code and have proven to reduce robberies in B.C. where they’ve been required since 2015.

“Time-delay safes were made mandatory in the province of British Columbia in 2015 after they experienced a similar spike in pharmacy armed robberies,” ACP president Peter Macek said. “Since that time, pharmacy robberies have been reduced to nearly zero in that province.

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“The criminals quickly realized that having to wait so long for a safe to open meant that by the time they were able to access what they wanted, the police would be waiting for them.”

“It’s a permanent time delay. Even if I was just filling a prescription… I still have to wait that amount of time before the safe will open. There is no way to speed up entry into the safe,” Howden added.

The ACP is now requiring that all community pharmacies store narcotics and other high-risk drugs in these time-delay safes.

“This might mean a longer wait time for Albertans requiring certain prescriptions but this will also lead to increased safety and security in our pharmacies,” Macek said.

“The robbers need to know that if they rob a pharmacy there is going to be a time-delay safe on the premises and it’s going to be hard for them to get what they would like to get,” Howden said.

Police predict that once word of the implementation of time-delay safes gets out — through signage and word of mouth — would-be robbers will be deterred.

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“I think they are starting to figure it out now because we’ve had a number of attempts over the last little while and they come in and they see the signs in there and they turn around and walk out,” said Acting Sgt. with CPS Anthony Thompson.

Time-delay safes will now be required at all Alberta pharmacies. Global News

Pharmacies are also limiting the number of narcotics and other high-risk drugs they keep, which police say is helping too.

“We need to be open to the public. We need to be a warm and welcoming and a safe place for our patients. We have methods in place to deter robbers but there’s only so much that can be done,” Howden said.

According to the ACP, in Calgary there were 25 pharmacy robberies in 2020, 89 in 2021 and so far this year there have been 27.

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In Edmonton, there were 21 robberies in 2020, 39 in 2021 and 10 to date in 2022.

“It’s really important that the public knows these robberies are going on and that pharmacy teams are putting themselves at risk right now to try to serve the public,” Howden said.

“These are traumatizing events. These events will leave a scar on all the pharmacy teams that have been robbed.

“For some people, it will be a lasting memory for years they will have to deal with.”

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