Local pharmacy robberies up, pharmacists fight back - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Local pharmacy robberies up, pharmacists fight back

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Pharmacy robberies are on the rise nation-wide and locally.

Drug addicts are stooping to more violent levels to get the pills they want, but some local pharmacists are fighting back.

Some are redesigning their stores to better hide the high-demand pills, others by making it clear they're armed, and in some cases, physically fighting off thieves.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is constantly working to make it harder for addicts to get their hands on prescription drugs. Local pharmacists say that also means they're getting more desperate and willing to be violent to steal their next fix, so they're doing what they can to protect themselves.

"I try to take measures here to let people know we have protection here and the shotgun here is an example of that," Pharmacist Jerry Grimmitt said.

Grimmitt owns Longley's Pharmacy in Rossville. A would-be robber won't miss the shotgun on display above the inventory.  

"I don't want to say it creates fear but I think when they come in and see that it creates an idea in the back of their mind that there could be some other weapons in here," Grimmitt said.

National research shows robbers hit chain pharmacies more. They're not armed and try to avoid those security partitions to make the store feel more welcoming.

Though Longley's has never been hit, employees do emergency practice drills.

"It's not a matter of if, it's when," Grimmitt said.

Last month, a Chattanooga pharmacist beat a thief off with a metal pipe at CVS on Hixson Pike. The suspect was wanted in robberies from Cleveland, TN, all the way to Arizona and Texas.

Channel 3 pulled the Chattanooga Police records and pharmacy robberies have more than tripled in the last year with three in 2012, and ten already this year. The DEA shows an 81% increase nation-wide from 2006-2010.

"It has gotten much worse in the last 6-9 months. The DEA is trying to control the amount of oxycodone products that are being manufactured," Grimmitt said.

Stricter rules on prescriptions make more addicts turn to stealing. The most popular pills are oxycodone, which has a street value of around $30 per pill, and hydrocodone, which sells for around $10 each.

"120 tablets, you're looking at $1,200-- make a darn good living like that, tax free," Grimmitt said.

Grimmitt does not fill orders for controlled substances if he doesn't know the prescribing physician is legitimate. He works closely with the Rossville Police Department to alert them to suspicious looking prescriptions.

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