Thursday, August 05, 1999

Pharmacy thefts prompt task force

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A string of break-ins at area pharmacies has prompted police to create a task force to catch the thieves.

        About a dozen independent pharmacies and the CVS chain have been hit in eastern Cincinnati communities along Interstate 71 in the last year.

        In most cases, break-ins have happened after business hours, and thieves went after painkillers that can be sold on the street, said Cincinnati police Spc. Dennis Luken, an investigator in the pharmaceutical diversion unit.

        The task force includes officers from Cincinnati, Anderson Township, Loveland, Sycamore Township and Sharonville. Other counties with similar crimes are being asked to participate.

        The latest incident was Sunday's break-in at Poppe's Medicine Shop on Montgomery Road in Silverton, where stolen drugs ranged from prescription painkillers such as Demerol and Percodan to Viagra, the anti-impotence medicine.

        The store was closed Sunday and its alarm was disabled by the thieves, who could have had hours to root through the store, owner Dave Poppe said.

        “These guys really knew exactly what they wanted. They only took certain things,” he said. “I've got to say, they were very neat about everything.”

        Four pharmacies on Beechmont Avenue have reported such crimes, and other break-ins extend to the northern suburbs of Sycamore Township and Loveland.

        “These guys are smooth,” said Jeff Metz, manager of The Medicine Shoppe in Sharonville. “They know what (alarm) lines to clip and everything.”

        His store, along with at least two other pharmacies in Sycamore Township and Loveland, were hit on Christmas.

        Mr. Metz and those at other pharmacies say they're improving security and changing the way they store the drugs.

        “There are certain similarities in these offenses,” Spc. Luken said. “We've had 10 or 12 in the last year in Greater Cincinnati.”

        Across the state, 88 break-ins or attempts have been reported at pharmacies in the last two years, according to the Ohio Pharmacy Board in Columbus.

        Police don't think it's the same group targeting pharmacies statewide.

        Area police are asking citizens to call the Crime Stopper hot line at 352-3040 with any information that could lead to arrests. Callers may remain anonymous.


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