Violent, deadly pharmacy robberies on the rise

Funerals were held in New York this weekend for a pharmacist and a customer gunned down last week in a robbery attempt that took two other lives as well. The accused gunman and his wife are in custody.

Violent attacks on pharmacies like the one in Long Island are on the rise. CBS News correspondent Jay Dow reports that their target is usually addictive painkillers.

On a quiet corner in Brooklyn, pharmacist Andrew Epstein keeps one eye on the pills he dispenses, and his other on every customer who walks through the door. That's because they've been robbed twice in the last three months.

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"A man came in wearing a hood and sunglasses and came up to the counter and said: 'Fill up a bag with painkillers.' The person at the counter - he had a gun to his head," Epstein says.

The robber gave Epstein a deadline.

"Counting down...10, 9, 8. In other words, when he got to zero, i didn't what was gonna happen," Epstein says.

Epstein gave him five hundred painkiller pills in exchange for a life.

That wasn't the case last week at another "mom and pop" pharmacy on New York's Long Island, where a man and his wife allegedly murdered four people while stealing 11,000 prescription painkillers.

It was all done, police say, to feed their addiction.

"I was shaking watching this, because this could happen to anybody," Epstein says.

Smaller, independent pharmacies are an attractive target because there are typically fewer customers inside, and a robber can get in and out quickly. In fact, the most recent robbery at this pharmacy took just 37 seconds.

Across the country, there have been more than 2,800 drug store robberies since 2006, an 80 percent increase over the last 5 years. In 2006, there were 380 pharmacy robberies. In 2010, there were 686.

This spike comes as Americans' abuse of pain killers rose 400 percent in the past decade.

"If you talk to law enforcement, they will tell you the abuse of prescription drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin are the second greatest drug problem," says Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY.

Schumer is sponsoring federal legislation to impose stiffer penalties for prescription drug theft and trafficking.

Pharmacists like Epstein say they hope it gives them a measure of protection.

Armed with a surveillance system, Brooklyn pharmacist Andrew Epstein says he spends his day at work paranoid.

"I used to think, oh, today's going to be a busy day, today's not going to be a busy day. Now, in addition to that, I have to think, well, who's coming into the store today and if I'll make it home," Epstein says.

Being a pharmacist has become a job where selling drugs is more dangerous than ever.