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CVS Installs Time-Delay Safes At All Illinois Pharmacy Locations To Deter Would-Be Thieves

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Would-be thieves will now have a much harder time making a quick getaway at Illinois pharmacies.

CVS drugstores have announced the installation of time-delay safes at all locations in the state. On Tuesday, CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey dug into the question of whether or not they actually work.

CVS started rolling out the safes six years ago in Indianapolis and have seen a drop in pharmacy robberies since then. So why did it take so long to bring them to Illinois, and how could they impact the bigger issue of retail theft?

Scenes involving armed men taking over pharmacies, and ordering staff to hand over prescription drugs, are a scary side effect of our nation's addiction to opioids. But CVS's chief policy officer, Thomas M. Moriarty, said offenders usually have one thing in common.

"Normally, they want to come in and get out very, very quickly," Moriarty said.

That is where the -delay safes come in. We cannot show you one, because CVS and law enforcement tell us it will compromise security.

The safes electronically delay the time it takes for pharmacy employees to open them. Indianapolis got the safes in 2015, and pharmacy robberies dropped by 70 percent.

CVS said Indy was part of the trial run.

Hickey: "Why did it take so long to get to Illinois?"

Moriarty: "Well, it didn't take that long, so today, we announced all 392 today. We started a while ago."

While drugstores like CVS and Walgreens are often targeted for prescriptions, general retail theft is also a huge — and costly — problem. CVS has estimated a 30 percent increase in thefts during the pandemic.

And the shoplifting policy is not to confront suspects.

"The balance is when do they get prosecuted, when don't they get prosecuted?" Moriarty said.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said he is well aware of the criticism that not enough is being done to stop retail theft — which can translate to violence in our communities.

"With existing statutes, they can appropriately charge and hold these individuals," Raoul said.

But he said authorities also need retailers to report the crime and sign complaints.

Hickey: "What can your office do to stop that what can your office do to hold CVS, Walgreens, any retailer accountable?"

Raoul: "I don't look at it as holding them accountable - because they're victims too - but collaborating with them to help stop this from happening. So we consider them as partners."

CVS is financing the safes without any money from the state.

The effort is part of the Attorney General's "Organized Retail Crime Task Force" which is also focusing on tracing some of these isolated incidents to a larger criminal enterprise.

We also addressed concerns that a would-be robber would resort to violence instead of waiting for the delay on the safe. A CVS spokesperson did not directly respond to that question Tuesday, but did say the following:

"The safety of our employees is our highest priority and it is why we implemented time delay safes in the first place.

"We studied the usage of time delay safes extensively before implementing them in the state. In 2015, we installed the safes in 158 stores in the Indianapolis region. Within a year we saw a 70% decrease in pharmacy robberies in that market. Since the time delay safes were installed, we have seen a 50% decline in robberies at CVS Pharmacy stores in those communities. "

CVS also reported that it has signage warning that there are time-delay safes:

"Stores with time delay safes have signage on the entrance doors, within the pharmacy area, on all safes and on counters along the pharmacy counters. If there is a drive-thru, there is a sticker on the window."

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