Local pharmacist works to prevent robberies

By Julie Fann
star staff

The owner of a local pharmacy has decided it's time to take preventive measures against daylight robberies due to recent incidents that have occurred in the region.
   James Anderson, owner of Union Prescription Shop, 402 Bemberg Road, held a seminar last month for pharmacy owners and members of the Elizabethton Police Department to discuss steps store owners and employees can take to better protect themselves against a potential robbery.
   "There was an attempted robbery in Kingsport, a daylight robbery. Someone with a knife entered the pharmacy. The pharmacist shot the person in the hand, and he ran from the store and was finally apprehended in Virginia. I started thinking about the possibility of something like that occurring," Anderson said.
   Union Prescription experienced a number of attempted break-ins last winter, night-time burglary incidents where, on one occasion, the perpetrator was successful.
   "They got to some medication by throwing cinderblocks or something through our back door," Anderson said. "It is at a point now with the problem of drugs and drug diversion that I wanted to take a closer look at our security here," said Anderson.
   Robberies often occur with the most susceptible pharmacies, independent operations housed in separate buildings unlike Super Kmart or Wal-Mart.
   Previous measures Anderson has taken include installing full-time video cameras and placing iron bars across the back door, which is now made of a high density, flexible glass that is difficult to break.
   "We also had the electric system put a nice halogen light in our parking lot that really illuminates the area so that, during the winter when employees are leaving, there is plenty of light," he said.
   The rear entrance is now closed after 4 p.m. and signs are on all doors noting that cameras are in use. Controlled substances are kept out of the prescription department, and callers are never told what types of drugs the pharmacy stocks.
   "We double count all narcotic prescriptions. If we start having people who have altered prescriptions, we basically just don't deal with them anymore," Anderson said.
   Because Union Prescription is a small pharmacy, Anderson worries about the fact that, if shots were fired due to a break-in, the possibility of an innocent person being injured or killed is very high.
   "There are so many scenarios that I can think of based on this that would just be a terrible outcome for the pharmacy owner, so I felt like our concentration should be on prevention and encouraging employees to simply get any perpetrator out without any loss of life or harm," he said.