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Give me the pills and nobody gets hurt

Give me the pills and nobody gets hurt

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader April 1, 2015.)

At around 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 13, a man in a blue hoodie, brown beanie, jeans, and work boots walked into a La Jolla CVS, and handed an employee a note stating that he had a gun and wanted Roxicodone — a generic name for the semi-synthetic morphine-like narcotic, oxycodone. The employee walked the note to the pharmacist, who complied with his demand. A few minutes later, the man walked out with hundreds of pills. None of the afternoon shoppers knew the store had been robbed.

The following Wednesday, January 21, just before noon, a man of similar build did the same at a La Mesa Walgreens, this time asking for oxycodone. Again, the robber made off with hundreds of pills in the middle of the afternoon without a scene.

On January 27, the Crime Stoppers unit announced a $1000 reward for information regarding either robbery, and Lt. Chris McGrath, unit commander of San Diego Police Department’s robbery division, says the department believes the two incidents are related. They do not believe that a third similar incident that took place at a Clairemont Albertsons pharmacy last October is related.

“The description [of the thief] is a little bit different and the M.O. as far as the language [in the note] is a little different,” McGrath says. “We don’t believe it’s going to be the same person.”

According to statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration, nationwide, pharmacy robberies dropped from 745 in 2012 to 712 in 2013. During that time, however, they nearly doubled in California — from 36 to 60 — which earned it the number-three spot on the top-ten states for pharmacy robberies. Arizona increased to 77 robberies (from 65) and took the top spot from Indiana, which decreased from 104 to 71.

San Diego police media relations officer Mark Herring wrote in an email, “SDPD does not keep stats specific to pharmacy robberies. When they occur, they fall into a commercial robbery category. For example, the pharmacy inside of a Vons gets robbed, the stat would track that robbery with Vons being the victim business, not specifically the pharmacy. Also there are cases where somebody may rob a pharmacy of money or just narcotics. There is no difference in the stat.”

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