Michael Konopasek, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY – In Oklahoma and across the nation, startling statistics show drug store robberies are on the rise. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency there has been an 80% increase in the past five years.
The rise in violent drug store robberies comes as police in Warr Acres arrest a man for robbing a metro Walgreens three times in the past month.
Matthew Pennington is suspected of robbing the Walgreens on 39th Street near MacArthur. Police say Pennington was stealing narcotics.
Nationwide, the focus of the robberies is on prescription drugs and pain killers.
Thrifty Pharmacy in Northwest Oklahoma City has been robbed several times in the past few years, forcing the owner to put up steel bars and take extra precautions.
Pharmacist Dani Lynch of Thrifty Pharmacy seems to know just about everyone who walks into her drug store. They are greeted with a hello and a smile, but not all aspects of her business are as pleasant.
"We think about it everyday," said Lynch, referring to the likelihood of being robbed. "We watch the parking lot, no doubt."
Lynch's store is one of many throughout metro that has experienced a spike in robberies for narcotics. Police said the criminals hooked on the drugs are becoming more bold.
"People will see prescription drugs as good as cash for trading for other drugs, alcohol, anything they need to get their hands on," said Mark Woodward of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
Woodward said there has been an increase in drug store robberies putting pharmacies at the same risks as banks.
Since 2006, there have been more 2,815 drug store robberies in the United States. Over the past ten years, the abuse of pain killers increased 400 percent.
"Our numbers [in Oklahoma] are going to reflect what they're seeing nationally," said Woodward. "We have seen a tremendous jump in pharmacy robberies and burglaries here in Oklahoma."
Woodward said eight out of ten Oklahomans who die from drugs, die from the addiction and abuse of prescription drugs.
For Lynch, the statistics are a sobering reminder of just how dangerous her job can be.
"Pharmacists are out here trying to do a job and take care of the public, and we put our lives on the line every day."
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics said the spike in pain killer abuse is connected to the fact that there are more pain killers on the market now than ever before.