Rising number of pharmacy robberies has pharmacists concerned for safety

WATCH: Pharmacy robberies in Calgary continue to be a real concern. As Global’s Craig Momney reports, some say new rules to help are not enough and many no longer feel safe at work.

Calgary pharmacists say they are concerned for their safety as the number of pharmacy robberies in the city has risen in 2022.

So far this year, the Calgary Police Service has reported that more than five dozen pharmacies have been hit. The rise has pharmacist Ibrahim Elkady feeling uneasy behind the counter.

“(I am) feeling unsafe. It was not like that just a couple of years ago. Something is changing,” said Elkady.

Elkady is a pharmacist at the Health Select Remedy’s Rx on 44 Ave. N.E., which was robbed, along with several others on Saturday morning — its fourth incident in five years.

“On that day specifically, when I realized them, I got scared of course and I ran away. I asked my assistant to run with me and then we called the police. When (the robbers) heard us talking to the police, they ran away,” he described.

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According to Calgary police, there have been 64 pharmacy robberies in the city since January. To put that into perspective, the Edmonton Police Service has reported 74 robberies over the past four years with just nine in 2022.

Barry Strader, with the Alberta College of Pharmacy, says the rise in robberies has been a major concern for the past two-and-a-half years.

“We saw an increase in pharmacy robberies dating back to late 2020, early 2021 where we went from very few robberies per year to, you know, pretty alarming numbers,” said Strader.

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As deterrents, the college has recommended that pharmacies implement cameras, alarm systems and suggested there be a limited amount of narcotics kept in store.

According to Strader, the college has also taken a page out of B.C.’s book by mandating timed safes for narcotics with a five-minute timer minimum in pharmacies. This has been mandatory for all pharmacies since July 1. As of Jan. 2022, newly opened pharmacies have been required to comply with the mandate prior to opening.

Since the implementation, Strader says the college has noticed a slight drop in robberies.

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“Most cases — if the safe is being used properly — someone who attempts a robbery tends to leave almost immediately. That’s certainly the intention of having a safe like that,” he said.

Some pharmacists have told Global News that they are now keeping the front doors locked, will only open the doors for legitimate customers and are no longer keeping narcotics in the store.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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