OxyContin robbers hit Pinellas County!

5:50 AM, Apr 22, 2008   |    comments
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UPDATE: St. Petersburg, Florida - OxyContin is one of the most powerful narcotics a doctor can prescribe. It's highly addictive, it's in large demand, and people will do just about anything for it.

And, we mean anything.

Pharmacy robberies are on the rise, with thieves donning masks and grabbing guns to hold up local chain stores in the Bay area, particularly CVS.

In the past week alone, two have been hit in Pinellas County. One in Pinellas Park, the other in St. Petersburg.

“I'm kind of scared walking into a CVS, not knowing what's going to happen. It happens any time of the day, any day, anywhere you go... it can happen anywhere,” customer Patty Hurst told us, as she walked out of the CVS in St. Pete.

The latest robbery was Sunday afternoon. It was almost 4:00, with bright and sunny skies. A man dressed in all black, walked calmly in the door, looked up at the security camera, and then walked to the back of the store to the pharmacy.

He held the pharmacist at gunpoint, demanding OxyContin and another powerful narcotic, Dilaudid.

The surveillance video shows him running out of the store. Police are hoping you will recognize his face.

One woman who has experienced this terrifying act firsthand, County Commissioner Rose Felita, who also happens to be a pharmacist. She ran her own pharmacy in Seminole Heights for years, Rose Drugs.

She says, thieves know exactly what they're doing, and most of them case a pharmacy before they rob it.

“In a big store, they're likely to rob you, because you have it. In a small store, it's easy you have little or no staff.. There's no barricade, there's so stopping them to rob you,” Ferlita said.

She also observed that the bigger chains always have more inventory. And, thugs know it.

But, some customers say, they will not worry. They'll go on about their business because they don't have a choice.

“We all depend on this chain.. and another well known chain, and you have to continue giving them the business, it's not their fault,” said Elisa Abolafia.

The CVS corporate office released a written statement saying, “We continue to fill all valid prescriptions, including those for OxyContin. We have security policies and procedures in place to help protect our employees and customers while maintaining our responsibility as a community pharmacy.”

Many pharmacists, like Ferita, have gone so far as to hire security guards full-time. When she ran her store, Rose Drugs, Ferlita says she felt good about spending the extra money to have someone there, and so did her customers.

At this time, CVS does not plan to pull OxyContin from the shelves. Walgreen's has done this already at some stores, and moved the medicine to a central location.

Earlier Story

St. Petersburg, Florida - Police are searching for a man who walked into a CVS Pharmacy on Sunday, pulled a gun on workers and demanded OxyContin and Dilaudid.

Surveillance video caught a clear image of the robber walking into the store. As he approached the counter, police say he put on a black ski mask and pulled a pistol.

Cameras caught the robber running out of the store with a bag full of narcotics.

Nobody was hurt during the robbery. Anyone with information can call the St. Petersburg Police Robbery Squad at 727-893-4928 or the communications center at 727-893-7780.

Melanie Brooks, Tampa Bay's 10 News

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