Crime - Sacto 911

Pharmacy robberies are skyrocketing. Police ask for help

Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying men suspected of robbing several pharmacies in Sacramento over the last 10 months.

The suspects, all black males in their late teens or 20s, have entered the stores wearing hooded sweatshirts and demanded prescription drugs from pharmacists, according to the Sacramento Police Department. They’ve worn gloves and carried reusable shopping bags on occasion, and fled in getaway cars waiting in parking lots.

The Sacramento Police Department on Thursday released photos of suspects connected to robberies on Feb. 13, June 20, Oct. 28 and Nov. 9 after leads on the earlier thefts dried up, Sgt. Bryce Heinlein said. None of the robbers have been visibly armed, though one told a clerk he was carrying a gun, and none have targeted registers.

“This is not a new robbery technique, but we’re seeing an increase here in the city, in the county – really, it’s a Northern California trend,” Heinlein said.

Approximately 24 pharmaceutical robberies have taken place in Sacramento city limits over the last year, Heinlein said, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration statistics show the prevalence of such crimes has risen 163 percent statewide since 2015.

SPD doesn’t track pharmaceutical robberies on a year-by-year basis, but Heinlein said patrol officers had noticed a local increase as well in 2017.

Drugs being taken include acetaminophen, opioids and codeine. In many cases, Heinlein said, robbers dashing to clear out shelves don’t take the time to examine what they’re stealing.

“I don’t think they’re looking at the labels, I think they’re just jumping counters and getting whatever they can, then they’ll decipher it later,” Heinlein said. “Drugs are worth money, and that’s what they’re targeting … they’re really looking for anything that has any narcotic value to it.”

Sacramento police arrested three people fleeing a Walgreens near Florin Road after robbing the pharmacy inside on Tuesday. All three were arrested, though their names have yet to be made public. They’re not suspected to be connected to any other robberies.

In Citrus Heights, where eight pharmacies have reported robberies in 2017 after just two last year, 87-year-old Marilyn Stribley was knocked down on Nov. 27 when pill-toting robbers fled a Rite Aid. Stribley later died of her injuries, and one of three suspects, 21-year-old Kimani Randolph, was arrested.

Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, @BenjyEgel