Using Technology to Combat Pharmacy Robberies

RX-Patrol Sign that reads: Partnering with this pharmacy for your safety Drug related crime has always been a serious concern for law enforcement, as well as the communities they serve, but brazen robberies at pharmacies have added a new dimension to the already dangerous field. Law enforcement has responded by collaborating with different national organizations, drug companies, as well as partners in their own localities, to develop innovative ways to try to deter potential robbers, and catch those who do commit robberies.

photo: Pharmacist giving police officer a reportCompanies who produce some of the most sought after and most addictive drugs are also joining forces with law enforcement, as well as pharmacies, to provide education and training on how to prevent and deal with a pharmacy robbery. One such advent is RxPATROL system (Rx Pattern Analysis Tracking Robberies & Other Losses) developed by Purdue Pharma (makers of OxyContin/oxycodone). This system is an easy way for everyone involved, from law enforcement to pharmacy technicians, to access information about pharmacy robberies in their area. RxPATROL goes further than that though, providing in-depth reports on pharmacy crime and prevention, tools, the ability to track trends in criminal activity, and even providing law enforcement with closed circuit video and photographs of suspects after a robbery. One unique feature is that it allows law enforcement to network and build relationships in order to solve robberies where the suspect may have crossed into another jurisdiction.

Previously, this service was only available via their website,, but Purdue Pharma recently announced the creation of the RxPATROL Twitter feed, which will allow users to view updates in their area or nationwide using their smart phones and other mobile devices.

There are also technical advances that aid in physically tracking suspects once they flee the scene of the crime. One device is a GPS tracking unit placed inside a pill bottle given to suspects at the time of the robbery. This method has been working in Maine, where there has been a dramatic increase in pharmacy robberies, with four in the first 3 weeks of January. In the case of Sean Higgins (a robbery suspect), police were able to track his movements immediately after the robbery, and even used Facebook to get pictures to identify him.

A new low-cost technology being employed in Long Island, New York, is a DNA tracking system developed by Applied DNA Sciences of Stony Brook. It is essentially a device that sprays a mist which envelopes the suspect as he/she exits the pharmacy after a robbery, covering them with a mist (unnoticeable to the suspect) that contains plant DNA that is visible only when using special light. This makes convicting a suspect much easier because it provides a strong link to the crime.

The use of technology is not the only way to deter pharmacy robbery, but it is an important element because it helps various parts of the community connect with each other to solve crimes and stay informed. Technology also fulfills the dual purpose of being a low-cost way to track criminals and a deterrent to future criminals, thus making it a major contributor in the fight against the increasing trend of pharmacy robberies.

Amber Jabeen
Special Contributor
The COPS Office


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