• Center for Problem oriented policing

POP Center Problems Robbery of Pharmacies Summary

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Appendix: Summary of Responses to Pharmacy Robbery

The tables below summarize the responses to pharmacy robbery, the mechanisms by which they are
intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should
consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local
circumstances and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an
effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses
alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Response No.


How It Works

Works Best If…


Increasing the Risk of Detection


Informing pharmacy employees about robbery trends

Heightens pharmacy staff vigilance and preparedness so as to minimize harm in the event of a robbery

…pharmacies provide routine training and updates to employees and communicate with police

Informing pharmacists alone will do little to prevent robberies but combined with other good security practices it could aid them in protecting themselves and any customers present and seeking assistance quickly


Providing prevention guidance to pharmacy employees

Improves pharmacy staff compliance with robbery prevention policies and practices

…training is conducted on a routine basis and is reinforced by posters, checklists, and other literature prominently posted in employee break areas

Pharmacy staff turnover can be high, underscoring the importance of including prevention guidance as a part of new staff orientation processes


Managing risk factors

Reduces vulnerability of pharmacy to robbery

…pharmacy staff is educated about potential harms and what should be done specifically for each risk

Risks vary for fraud, burglary, and robbery so there is a need to know each; risks also vary by pharmacy, depending on physical layout, staffing, etc.


Installing a panic alarm

Increases probability of police apprehension

…the alarm is easily accessible, not obvious , and goes directly to police

Panic alarms will only deter robbers if they know generally that such alarms exist


Using a video surveillance system

Deters potential robbers who are aware of the system; increases likelihood of identification and apprehension.

…the cameras as well as signs announcing the cameras are noticeable.

Pharmacy owners must be persuaded to install high-quality systems


Tracking the stolen drugs/offender

Increase likelihood of identification  and apprehension; may be a deterrent for those who are generally aware they may be tracked

…all pharmacy staff are aware of and know how to use tracking methods, and police have the resources to respond quickly

Tracking devices are primarily investigative tools, but may prevent robberies if offenders believe a pharmacy may be using these tools


Using deterrent signage

May deter individuals who calculate risks relatively carefully

…signs are placed in prominent locations both at the entrance of the pharmacy and near the pharmacy counter

In other crime prevention contexts these forms of deterrence alone have not had much of an impact on criminal behavior

Increasing the Effort Required to Commit Pharmacy Robbery


Employing security measures



Measures will vary depending on store design (inside and out), staffing, and types of drugs that are dispensed


Increasing pharmacy lighting

Increases  the risk of detection by police and identification by witnesses

…lighting is positioned so as to not cast shadows; lighting is combined with a wide array of security measures

Brighter lights alone are unlikely to prevent pharmacy robberies


Locking up drugs

Increases the difficulty in gaining access to desired drugs

…accessibility is limited and offenders believe that pharmacy staff cannot access drugs

Some potential for violent reactions by offenders upon learning drugs are inaccessible; potentially higher costs for pharmacies and greater inconvenience for pharmacy staff in filling prescriptions


Installing physical barriers

Denies access to drugs; reduces likelihood that pharmacy staff will be coerced into turning over drugs

…pharmacy staff know how to use barriers and barriers are properly maintained

Higher costs for pharmacies and some reduction in “personal touch” of customer service


Ensuring front windows are clear

Increases likelihood that police or witnesses will detect a robbery in progress, which might be a deterrent  

…there is clear line of sight from outside the store to the pharmacy counter

May increase costs to pharmacy if remodeling is required; some potential loss of advertising opportunities

Decreasing Susceptibility to Robberies


Limiting the drugs available

Denies the desired drugs, at least in large quantities

…the fact that targeted drugs are restricted is prominently advertised through signage at the pharmacy entrance

Pharmacies may lose legitimate customers to pharmacies where these drugs are more readily available


Limiting the drug information available via telephone

Reduces the  ability to determine whether robbery is worth the risk

…all pharmacy staff abide by not discussing drug availability with customers

Pharmacies may lose legitimate customers to pharmacies where it is easier for them to determine whether these drugs are available

Responses with Limited Effectiveness


Conducting focused surveillance and enforcement

Intended to increase likelihood of apprehension

…a rash of robberies was concentrated at a few properties such that prospects of detection through surveillance were high, and there were few offenders in the community



Increasing penalties for pharmacy robbery

Intended to deter through threat of harsh punishment

…enhanced penalties are widely publicized and/or known offenders are notified, and potential offenders believe they will be apprehended and punished

Many studies of the deterrence value of enhanced penalties suggest they do not prevent crime, mainly because offenders do not believe their risk of apprehension is high

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