Tulsa Robbery Detectives Give Pharmacies Prescription For Protection

Tuesday, October 5th 2010, 6:05 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- Tulsa has averaged nearly one pharmacy robbery a week this year.

It's so bad, robbery detectives decided to do something they've never done before.  They gave a training class to area pharmacists Tuesday.

Police say this is a prescription for protection. They want pharmacists to know what to watch out for before a robbery, how to make their stores more secure and what they can do to help police catch these criminals as fast as possible.

Bill Pittman has run Dooley's Pharmacy in west Tulsa since the 1960's. They offer the kind of personal service rarely seen these days, but they were forced to make some serious security changes after Bill got robbed in February.

"Next to being laid on the floor and a gun put right here, it was the worst experience I've ever had," he said.

As is typical with pharmacy robberies, the men demanded painkillers.

9/22/2010 Related Story: Three Prescription Drugs Behind Spike In Tulsa Pharmacy Robberies

Bill has now been trained to look for disguises and distinguishing marks like tattoos and he's added security cameras and warning signs. He also added a buzzer system, where everyone who comes to the door has to ring the bell, and then someone behind the counter must unlock the front door and let them in.

Robbery detectives want more pharmacists to be trained. At a seminar Tuesday, they talked about better camera angles, adding cameras outside to catch getaway cars or even adding barriers where customers wait for their prescriptions.

They say pharmacy robberies are very similar to bank robberies that are either armed takeovers or the passing of a note.

They hope pharmacies will do as many banks do now and require people to remove their hats, hoodies and sunglasses, which make for simple disguises.

The goal is to cut down on these crimes and save lives.

"Anytime you increase the numbers, you increase the chance of getting hurt. We're only a couple away from somebody getting hurt," Sergeant Dave Walker, Tulsa Police.

Bill would've never have dreamed 56 years ago when he became a pharmacist that people in his profession would one day have to consider arming themselves.

"To take a life is something I can't comprehend, that's not in my make up, but, if it's kill or be killed, I would choose to kill," he said.

Sergeant Walker says two types of robbers are doing these crimes: those who are addicted to the pain killers and those who are selling them to make money.

Pharmacies struggle with how to make their store safer, while also keeping it convenient for their legitimate customers.

Bill says his customers have been very understanding of the changes he's made. Two of his four robbers were captured, but he's still waiting on them to go to trial.