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Pharmacies on High Alert Amid Rash of Robberies in Sacramento

NATOMAS -- Local pharmacies cannot ignore the fact that across the region criminals have been walking through pharmacy doors and robbing staff of narcotics, particularly prescription pain killers and cough syrup, sometimes at gunpoint.

At Natomas pharmacy, employees say they try to treat every client like good neighbors.

"Almost every person who walks through that door, I already know their name and I say 'hi' to them," said Katelyn Lamping.

Lamping had been a pharmacy technician for eight years, but she said the last two years she has noticed that her industry is being targeted.

"We talk about it all the time, like, what we would do," Lamping said. "We try to look out for suspicious people."

The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department calls the pharmacy robberies a trend across the greater Sacramento area.

Pharmacist Harpreet Gill says maintaining a community feel and making connections with patients is one of their top priorities. For that reason they have forgone some of the security measures other pharmacies, both corporate and retail, have taken, such as installing bulletproof glass and bars.

"It’s nice to have that protection, it kind of takes way from the customer service, being able to talk to patients directly and bond with them," Harpreet said.

However, he says they have restricted the types of medicines they stock, something other independent pharmacies told FOX40 as well. They said there is also a lot of subtle security in place and believe their close relationships with customers make it easier to spot people who may mean harm. However, they also acknowledge they have been lucky.

"It hasn't hit too close to home yet," Lamping said. "I don’t come to work scared or anything, but it’s definitely in the back of our head."

The California Pharmacists Association sent FOX40 a statement Friday regarding the recent rise in pharmacy robberies:

"CPhA is fully aware of the gravity of the prescription drug epidemic gripping California, and has been on the forefront of addressing overdose deaths. However, solving the drug abuse problem is one of the more complicated challenges facing the state. It seems that with every attempt to address the issue a whole new set of issues occurs.

The Association provides resources to our member pharmacists throughout the state on handling, surviving and preventing pharmacy robberies. Pharmacy owners are encouraged to enact key security elements, such as installing visible monitoring cameras and silent alarms. Pharmacies should also hold regular staff meetings to plan a response plan, such as a code phrase to alert staff.

In the unfortunate event of a robbery, pharmacists should cooperate, lock down the building afterwards, and record the facts. It’s also important for pharmacists to take care of their own PTSD after a robbery.

Even with the right preparation, as sadly demonstrated by the senseless death of Marilyn Stribley, the best laid plans cannot protect everyone."