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String of recent pharmacy robberies leads to search for solutions

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Some Waterloo region pharmacists are renewing calls for better protection after numerous pharmacies have been the target of thieves.

Recently, Waterloo regional police charged three Brampton residents in connection to two recent pharmacy robberies in Waterloo region.

According to Waterloo regional police, in both instances, several men entered pharmacies and demanded cash and narcotics from staff.

“They just came in, pointed a gun at me and said open the pharmacy,” pharmacy owner Mairaj Naveed said his business was one of the places targeted this week. “Basically, it's not a robbery. It's an act of terrorism. Everybody was terrorized.”

The Ontario College of Pharmacists will be discussing some preventative measures at their next meeting on Dec. 12. One option is mandatory time-delayed safes. A measure that, if approved, would apply to all community pharmacies.

“If you go in to rob a pharmacy, you will have to wait anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes for that safe to open,” Jen Belcher, the VP of strategic initiatives with the Ontario Pharmacists Association, told CTV Kitchener.

Belcher said they have been effective in other provinces in reducing the rate of pharmacy robberies -- especially when paired with public awareness campaigns.

“In BC and Alberta we saw pharmacy robberies reduce by 95 per cent after the mandatory implementation of these measures,” Belcher said.

The local pharmacist we spoke to said he’s wary of what might happen if robbers are forced to wait and said it could be risky if they don’t trust you and start to panic.

The Ontario College of Pharmacists said action must be taken soon. Adding that over the course of the pandemic the rate of pharmacy robberies as well as the violence associated with those robberies, has been increasing – the association calling it “extraordinarily alarming.”

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