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One pharmacists’ winning strategy to curb robberies

Last year, Indiana held the dubious distinction of being the state with the most pharmacy robberies in America. Yet there was not a single pharmacy robbery in 2012 in St. Joseph County, Indiana, which includes South Bend.

That hadn’t always been the case in St. Joseph County, where in 2004 there was an average of 1 pharmacy robbery every 6 weeks.  But in 2004 local pharmacists began aggressively working with police to create safer pharmacy environments and to apprehend criminals. Their efforts led to the arrest of more than 30 diversion and robbery suspects, the breakup of 2 Rx fraud rings, and the end of the armed-robbery spree in their county.

That success is chronicled in Staring Down the Barrel: A Pharmacists’ Guide to Diversion and Coping with Robbery (AuthorHouse) by Ken Fagerman, RPh, MM. The book was published in July.

“Pharmacy violence is on the rise and a subject rarely dealt with in an open format. This book details how a group of local pharmacists began a program with police that stopped rampant pharmacy robberies and at the same time uncovered widespread, organized narcotic diversion,” Fagerman said.

Fagerman is a clinical pharmacist, a former manager of infusion and retail pharmacies, an adjunct professor of pharmacology, and former president of the St. Joseph County Pharmacy Association.

He decided to organize his pharmacy colleagues after two particularly disturbing incidents. The first involved an armed robbery during which a pharmacist and staff were bound and gagged. The second was the threatening of a pharmacist who refused to fill a suspicious Rx. That pharmacist was shown a knife and told: “I’ll cut you later.”

Fagerman said what he found was that “there was no manual or program to turn to. This book is to relay our successes, tactics, and tips so you may benefit from the South Bend experience.”

The book’s strategy includes working with police, training pharmacists how to react, and changing the way many stores are set up.

"Just the physical set-up of the stores was not conducive to crime prevention methods," said Captain Phil Trent, South Bend Police Department. "Now at least some of the pharmacies have done a better job of beefing up their prevention security."


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