Calgary – In an effort to increase safety for staff and patients, and to make the drug supply more secure, the Alberta College of Pharmacy (ACP) is requiring all community pharmacies to store narcotics and other high-risk drugs in time-delayed safes. ACP has updated its Standards for the Operation of Licensed Pharmacies to include this requirement after consultation with law enforcement agencies across Alberta, its own regulated members, and other stakeholders.
When approving the amendments to the standards, ACP Council considered data that indicated significant increases in pharmacy armed robberies across Alberta. Between September 2020 and August 2021, there were 89 pharmacy robberies in Calgary, compared to just four during the previous 12 months. In Edmonton, there were 49 pharmacy robberies between September 2020 and August 2021, compared to 14 during the previous 12 months. From September 2021 to December 2021, there were two pharmacy robberies in Edmonton. So far in 2022, there have been 10 pharmacy robberies in Edmonton and 27 pharmacy robberies in Calgary.
“These incidents can be terrifying for pharmacy team members and the public, many of whom suffer physical and emotional trauma during an armed robbery,” said ACP president Peter Macek. “In many instances, a significant amount of violence has been used by the perpetrators, and pharmacy team members have reported being bound, threatened with weapons, and physically assaulted. We’re hopeful that the requirement of using time-delayed safes, combined with other security efforts, will help prevent robberies and make pharmacies and our communities safer.”
Pharmacies across Alberta have been equipped with signage posted at all external entrances and at the pharmacy counter to ensure that all who enter are aware of the use of time-delayed safes. ACP has also strongly recommended that pharmacies take additional security measures such as video surveillance systems, alarm systems, and limiting the amount of narcotics and other high-risk drugs in stock in their pharmacies.
Since June 2021, ACP has worked closely with the Calgary Police Service (CPS), Edmonton Police Service (EPS), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association (RxA) in a Pharmacy Working Group to address the increase in pharmacy robberies in Alberta.
“This is another excellent example as to how the Alberta College of Pharmacy is working with their policing partners,” said Superintendent Michael McCauley, Officer-in-Charge of Engagement and Outreach for the Alberta RCMP. “By bringing together the expertise of the province’s major police forces, the Pharmacy Working Group continues to work towards ensuring the safety of Alberta’s pharmacy staff and their patients.”
“Pharmacy robberies have become increasingly common across the province, endangering employees and customers,” said Acting Sergeant Anthony Thompson of the CPS Robbery Unit. “It is our hope that by partnering with the Alberta College of Pharmacy, Edmonton Police Service, and the RCMP to support the implementing of timed-delayed safes along with other crime prevention strategies, pharmacies across the province will see a dramatic decline in robberies, and help ensure the safety of citizens.”
“The installation of time-delayed safes in Edmonton pharmacies is a great step toward increasing safety for our pharmacists who provide essential service to their communities,” said Staff Sergeant Mark Hilton of the EPS Robbery Section. “No one should feel unsafe at work; this initiative will help reduce the number of pharmacy robberies not only in Edmonton but across the province.”
ACP will continue to work with Alberta policing organizations to prevent future robberies, contribute to safer communities, and help keep narcotics and other high-risk drugs out of the wrong hands.