Violent crime against pharmacies is increasing and a number of measures are needed to tackle this issue, including an increase in Garda patrols and increased public CCTV, pharmacists have said.
Speaking to members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the president of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), Daragh Connolly, said that pharmacies nationwide ‘have been subjected to criminal activity on an ongoing basis and the problem continues to get worse'.
He highlighted the IPU's last crime survey, which was carried out in February of this year. It revealed that 79% of pharmacies were victims of crime in 2017 and 81% of victims had experienced two or more incidents.
Meanwhile, 13% of pharmacists experienced a raid in 2017, compared to just 6% in 2016.
"Of huge concern is the fact that almost one in three cases of a robbery or a raid were described as violent and/or involved the use of a weapon. Weapons included knives, syringes and guns.
"The most violent type of crimes committed against pharmacies involve gangs who come in with a syringe, knife, gun or hatchet demanding prescription drugs. They are more likely to come into a pharmacy when it is open because they would not be able to access the drugs or cash themselves in an out-of-hours raid," Mr Connolly told the Oireachtas Committee.
He pointed out that pharmacies now face major costs to try to protect and insure their premises, including installing CCTV and hiring security guards.
However, Mr Connolly emphasised that the biggest costs are hidden.
"Crime has a negative impact on staff morale with the psychological aftermath and traumatic effects of these crimes, particularly violent crimes, leading to increased levels of absenteeism. Crime also damages businesses and threatens jobs. These hidden costs can have a far bigger impact on the pharmacy business than the direct costs of damage and loss," he explained.
The IPU is calling for a number of measures to be introduced to tackle this problem, including:
-An increase in Garda patrols
-Fast Garda response to reports of crime and a targeted Garda operation to tackle crime against pharmacies
-Increased public CCTV especially in town centres
-Tougher sentences to ensure they act as an adequate deterrent
-The development and implementation of more business watch initiatives.
Mr Connolly added that unless urgent action is taken, ‘this sinister and frightening pattern of crime on pharmacies will continue to the detriment of our members' pharmacies and staff, and the local communities we serve'.