More local pharmacies targeted by thieves

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Over the past couple of years, several pharmacies in and around Jonesboro have been targeted by burglars who target the shelves and not the cash registers.  
Gibson's pharmacy on Matthews was last nights target. It joins the list of pharmacies that have been hit, some several times.

Jonesboro Police Chief, Mike Yates said these are not just snatch and grab type crooks.

"There are individuals out there who are basically professional pharmacy burglars and that's all they do." Yates said, "They go from one area to another to target individual pharmacies."

Yates reminded me of a rash of break-ins a couple of years ago. "One" he said "Resulted in a high speed pursuit ending at the Memphis bridge."

Police are still investigating the Monday night break-in at Gibson's Pharmacy. Owners are conducting an inventory to determine how much was taken.

One common thread to these burglaries is what's being taken.

Yates, "Hydrocodone, Oxycontin, things of that nature because of the high street value." Yates said the profits can outweigh the risks. "When you are stealing a couple thousand Hydrocodone at 5-10 bucks a dosage unit, it's quite a bit of money, street value wise."

In the past year nearly 22 thousand pills have been taken not counting what was stolen Monday night.

Yates said they are still trying to determine if all the burglaries are connected. "There have been some similarities in the vehicles involved. So it could be one or more different groups or individuals."

Connected or not the criminals are fast. Most times they are in a store for less than a minute. They know exactly what to look for and where it is located.

In January, Soo's Drugstore on Nettleton had it's front door kicked in. The thief went right to a shelf and took several large bottles of Hydrocodone. Pharmacist Brandon Cooper said they have made some changes in their security.

"One of the first things we did since we had such good surveillance in the past with the break in we had here, we added even more cameras." Cooper said. Also they are training their employees to watch for those customers that may be reconnoitering versus shopping.

Some pharmacies place controlled drugs in safes or put bars on their windows. Cooper said those kinds of prevention could lead to other possibly deadly occurrences.

Cooper, "You run the risk then of having more daytime burglaries which would be a hold up and things that are even more dangerous." Back East there have been several incidents of pharmacy workers being shot and even killed for drugs.

Yates said it's kind of a double edged sword. "I understand their concerns about these burglaries turning into a daytime armed robbery or just the damage these burglars do to their property and buildings."

"But on the other hand." he said. "It increases the time it takes these people to commit their burglary which increases the likelihood for us to respond while they are still there. So we like that."

Yates says their investigation into all the burglaries is ongoing.

Yates. "Us or somebody else will have the luck and catch the individuals eventually, but in the meantime we're going to have to be on our P's and Q's and keep an eye on the pharmacy outlets."

If you have any information you can call the Jonesboro Police or Crimestoppers at 935-STOP.

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