Suffolk Police, County Exec Bellone Announce 'Pharmacy Safety Initiative'
YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Police Commissioner Edward Webber unveiled a plan Monday to keep pharmacy workers safe in the wake of several deadly robberies.
WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs With Reaction From The Long Island Pharmacy Association
The Pharmacy Safety Initiative is a three-pronged attack to stop the violence. It includes training for police and pharmacy employees, increasing rewards for information leading to arrests of suspects and raising community awareness about Operation Medicine Cabinet – a program where you can drop off unused drugs.
"These drugs need to be taken seriously-- and they are being taken seriously in Suffolk County," Bellone told CBS 2's Emily Smith.
The Initiative increases rewards for pharmacy robbery arrests from $1,500 to $5,000 and trains pharmacy personnel on a voluntary basis how to help stop robbers from targeting their business, reports Smith.
Suffolk County police also plan to host a workshop next month to teach pharmacy workers additional security measures.
"I dont think that's what they bargained for when they became a pharmacist. They're not policemen,"said Massapequa Park resident Lynn Durante.
1010 WINS' Mona Rivera reports
"I think the 21st Century gateway drug to more serious problems is the synthetic opiates we have today. In old days it used to be marijuana. Now it's this," Suffolk County Police Inspector Robert Oswald told CBS 2's Jessica Schneider.
The plan is in response to several violent attacks in pharmacies, including the murder of four people at Haven Drugs in Medford on Father's Day last June.
The shooter, David Laffer, and his wife, Melinda Brady were found with thousands of prescription pills when they were arrested.
Laffer is serving five consecutive life terms. Brady was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
On New Year's Eve, ATF Agent John Capano was killed by friendly fire when career criminal James McGoey tried to steal cash and hundreds of painkillers from a Seaford pharmacy.
"It's horrible," Joanne Hoffman Beechko, President of the Long Island Pharmacist's Society, said. "The point is no one wants to come to work and have to worry about their life."
Pharmacies on Long Island have security measures in place and there will be more to come. Expect to see low doses or no doses of the career criminals drug of choice, oxycontin and oxycodone, reports Smith.
Michael Nastro, owner of Fairview Pharmacy, said his store has been hit twice in the past year -- no one was hurt, but thieves snatched $10,000 in cash and drugs.
"I fear for my staff, I fear for me, I fear for people coming in my store," Nastro said. "I want this to stop."
While pharmacists and customers welcome the county's help, many admit theyre afraid and feeling vulnerable to the next pill-popping criminal.
"Pharmacists are gonna have to do things on their own, too -- not just what legislation is talking about," added pharmacist Todd Svec.
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