Uptick in Drugstore Robberies Has Pharmacists on Alert

The number of pharmacy robberies nationwide is on the rise, and California is leading the pack, according to the DEA.

Surveillance video from two recent Bay Area pharmacy robberies shows two different armed gunmen after the same thing: the painkiller oxycodone.

One of the robberies took place in San Francisco, the other in suburban Walnut Creek.

Police believe the Walgreens in the East Bay was a prime target for the suspect because it's open 24 hours. The suspect hit it around 5:30 a.m. on Feb.11, when few employees or customers were inside, authorities said.

In Walnut Creek, police say, the armed suspect was in and out of the store within five minutes. Once inside the store, surveillance video shows him going straight to the pharmacy, jumping over the counter, and confronting the pharmacist.

Security cameras show the suspect, wearing a black and red A's baseball cap and black jacket, calmly walking into the Walgreens at Main Street in Walnut Creek.

"Calculated, planned and probably done that before," said Walnut Creek Police Detective Bill Jeha.

Jeha says the suspect knew what he was doing.

"He did use some type of force to make the pharmacist hurry up and open the next drawer that actually had the oxycodone," Jeha said.

A few days after the Walnut Creek robbery, a suspect hits a Walgreens on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. He was looking for the same drug and was also armed. He can be seen on surveillance video flashing a gun. Seconds later, the pharmacist returns with a bag full of the pain medication.

"These are common and they are getting more common due to the fact that our prescription, controlled substances are now more regulated," Jeha said.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the number of pharmacy robberies nationwide is on the rise, and California is leading the pack. In 2014, there were 94 pharmacy robberies in the state, up nearly 60 percent from the year before

"It's really sad more than anything," said Walnut Creek resident Liz Curiel. "It's becoming a more common thing that people are just abusing prescription drugs."

Jeha says it's sad too for those who legitimately need the medication.

"It makes a person who legitimately needs the pain medication or the opiates a little more shy, or they feel a little better securitized when they get it," Jeha said.

Authorities in San Francisco and Walnut Creek are warning pharmacists to keep an eye for both suspects, and because they were both armed, they say don't approach them, just call police.

San Francisco police encourage anyone who can provide any information to call their anonymous tip line: (415) 575-4444

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