Pharmacy Robberies Increasing In Tulsa Area

Thursday, May 28th 2009, 9:40 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fulbright, The News On 6

JENKS, OK -- Pharmacy robberies are on the rise here in the Tulsa area.

Tulsa typically has five a year, but there are already twice that many in the past five months.

Typical armed robbers are career criminals who don't bat an eye at pulling out a gun and demanding what they want.

Police say many of the pharmacy robbers don't fit that bill. Instead, they are addicts and are so desperate to get painkillers, they turn to robbery.

A robbery took place inside a Tulsa pharmacy in February when a man went in wearing a mask and pointed a gun at the pharmacist. He doesn't care that several male customers are standing right there.

As is so often the case in these robberies, he isn't after money. He wants prescription painkillers, such as oxycontin, oxycodone and hydrocodone.

The pills can sell from $20 to $60 each on the streets, depending on the strength, but police say that's not the goal.

"Most of these people are addicted to it themselves," said Sgt. Dave Walker with the Tulsa Police Department. "That's why they're going to drastic measures of committing armed robbery."

In a pharmacy robbery in April, the man passes the pharmacy worker a note that demands drugs. He reaches into his waistband several times, implying he may have a gun there.

He also got the drugs he came for.

Both men were arrested and charged. Police say they are catching 95 percent of the pharmacy robbers.

"Partly because they're so hooked on drugs, they're not doing it very well," Walker said.

A Sand Springs pharmacy got hit five times in three months. It was a break-in, not a robbery, but employees got so sick of it, they glued down the pain pill bottles and put a camera right in the suspect's face.

He was caught and convicted.

Pharmacies used to be some of the safest places to work and shop, but now they are targets of criminals, some wielding shotguns, people whose desperation could lead to anything.

"Anytime you go behind a pharmacy counter, you don't know who the next customer is going to be," Walker said.     

The good news is so far, none of these robberies has turned violent.

Despite the increase in pharmacy robberies, there have been only 10 in Tulsa since January, so your chances of being in a pharmacy that's robbed are still pretty low.