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Thwarting thieves

Walgreens pharmacist Amy McCartt approaches the time-lock safe at the Kingston Pike at Lovell Road store.- Dan Barile/farragutpress
Walgreens pharmacies in Farragut and Knoxville have taken steps to discourage thieves who have targeted the pharmacy chain for oxycontin and other select medications.

“Walgreens has installed time-lock security cabinets in all of its pharmacies as a way to protect employees and customers by securing inventory” of targeted drugs, Robert Elfinger, Walgreens spokesman, said.

The safes were activated Monday, Feb. 28.

Elfinger said, “This time-delay approach will help minimize pharmacy robberies at Farragut and Knoxville area stores by eliminating the immediate availability to robbers of the prescription drugs they seek the most and dramatically increase the probability of a robber being caught.”

The time-delay concept is used extensively to protect employees who handle money in both the bank and retail settings by simply eliminating immediate availability.

“In cooperation with local law enforcement, we hope to quickly change the current trends and raise the risk to any potential robber,” Elfinger added.

Elfinger said an increase in pharmacy robberies prompted the chain to take this measure. “We have seen a significant upward trend in robberies and proactively responded by expanding the time-delay safes in Knoxville. Over the last 18 months, we’ve experienced 30 robberies in the Knoxville market,” he said.

Elfinger said Walgreens installed these safes in all its Washington stores in August 2009. Prior to that, the company was averaging almost two robberies per week in that state.

Since the safes were activated, there has been only one oxycontin robbery at a Walgreens pharmacy in Washington.

He said the time delay was long enough for police to arrive at the store (while again, allowing the chain to continue to service its customers.)

“By simply changing the balance of the risk verses reward for a potential robber,” Elfinger said,” the potential criminal understands the longer they remain at a crime scene, their chances of getting caught increase exponentially with each passing minute. They also understand the longer the stay, the more CCTV footage we have of them, which has been extremely beneficial to local authorities in identifying and arresting these criminals.

“Additionally, ample signage will be placed at every store in several places to warn potential robbers that Time Lock Cabinets are in use. We also know that robbers pay attention to the news and that getting the word out with stories like this will make robbers think twice about robbing our stores.”


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