New safes meant to prevent drug robberies won’t stop everyone: Mississauga pharmacist


Published April 11, 2024 at 2:27 pm

Time-delayed safes help reduce pharmacy robberies in Mississauga and across GTA.

A Mississauga pharmacist whose store has been robbed twice says the mandated use of time-delayed safes to secure narcotics at pharmacies across Ontario has so far proven to be an effective deterrent, but it won’t scare off all criminals on the hunt for drugs.

Jakleen Abdelmalak, who owns and manages the Pharmasave/Lisgar Pharmacy at Ninth Line and Doug Leavens Boulevard in the north end of the city, told in an interview on Thursday that in some cases those looking to steal drugs might not be deterred by a five- or 10-minute wait for the safe to be opened.

In those cases, she suggested, time-delayed safes — mandated last year at all 4,900 or so Ontario pharmacies in response to a significant rise in drug robberies across southern Ontario — could actually put pharmacy workers in danger.

Abdelmalak said the newer safes, which are pre-set using varying time delays, “should help, but in reality (there are times) when it can put pharmacists (and other staff) at more risk.”

The Mississauga pharmacist, whose business was robbed twice within three days in April 2022, said some robbers in search of drugs are already quite anxious when they enter the store and a delay in the safe being opened could cause them to harm workers.

“From my experience, when they enter (the pharmacy) they already have a level of anxiety and if the safe is delayed in opening,” they might think the pharmacist has contacted police or something else, Abdelmalak said.

“I know a couple of other pharmacists who have been robbed” even though they have the time-delayed safes, she added, noting her store has not been targeted again since the early 2022 robberies.

Overall, Abdelmalak acknowledged the time-delayed safes, which she has used for just over a year now, should serve as an effective deterrent to crime.

The Pharmasave location on Doug Leavens Boulevard in north Mississauga.

The idea behind the new safes, according to police who on Wednesday trumpeted data that shows pharmacy robberies in Toronto, for one, have decreased significantly, is that would-be robbers are deterred when they spot signage on the storefront that indicates the use of the new safes.

At a press conference yesterday in Toronto, Toronto Police, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and the Ontario College of Pharmacists said all pharmacies across Ontario are now reporting the use of time-delayed safes for securing narcotics such as oxycodone, morphine and codeine.

“This marks a significant milestone in helping to curb the risk of pharmacy robberies throughout Ontario,” police said at the press conference.

OCP board chair James Morrison added the widespread usage of the new safes “should serve as a signal to all would-be thieves that pharmacies are no longer an easy target to steal narcotics and that pharmacies are working closer than ever with local law enforcement to help deter pharmacy robberies.

“In working with law enforcement, we’ve learned that perpetrators who commit pharmacy robberies rely on getting in and out of a pharmacy quickly. The evidence is clear. When criminals know that narcotics are secured in a time-delayed safe, it serves as a strong deterrent,” he continued.

Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Mark Dapat, also on hand at the press conference, applauded the new safes.

“The theft of narcotics from pharmacies can pose a serious threat to community safety and place pharmacy workers, patients and the public at risk,” he said. “Criminals have relied on getting in and out of pharmacies quickly when they commit the theft of narcotics…

“Mandating these safes acts as a robbery deterrent, improves overall safety and prevents stolen narcotics from fueling Ontario’s opioid crisis.”

(Cover photo: Ontario College of Pharmacists via Peel Regional Police X)

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