Thieves target pharmacies in La Cañada, Burbank for painkillers

A rash of burglaries targeting pharmacies and their stocks of pain killers has struck La Cañada Flintridge, Burbank and nearby areas, prompting authorities to suggest pharmacies do more to secure desirable drugs.

On Saturday 15 bottles of the often-abused painkiller OxyContin were stolen from the Walgreens in La Crescenta. Both Marsh Village Pharmacy and Flintridge Pharmacy in La Cañada have been similarly burglarized in the last two months.

Burbank has been hit hardest, according to Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Sgt. Debra Herman. Since June, six pharmacies have been burglarized, with suspects grabbing 4,800 OxyContin tablets and 3,500 tabs of Vicodin.

Herman said that the Walgreens incident was typical: Thieves smashed a glass door or window to gain entry, headed straight to the narcotics, and got out before law enforcement could respond to an alarm.

“It happened so fast, they were in and out of there in probably three minutes or less,” she said. “It does appear that … they know exactly what they're looking for.”

Flintridge Pharmacy experienced two break-ins, on Aug, 26 and Sept. 4. Marsh Village Pharmacy was hit Sept. 5 and Sept. 27. Although only one of the incidents at each pharmacy resulted in a loss of goods, the total loss was more than 3,000 Vicodin tablets, Herman said.

Herman said that given the quantity of painkillers stolen, it is likely they are being sold on the black market. Local agencies will work together to respond, she said.

“What we'd like to do is get together with Glendale and Burbank and compare notes and make sure we're all on the same page in combating this together,” she said.

Herman said if residents spot any large pill bottles discarded in the trash or see anyone loitering around a closed pharmacy, they should report it.

Crescenta Valley Capt. David Silversparre said that video evidence was captured at one of the break-ins, but he declined to elaborate because the investigation is active. In light of the break-ins, pharmacy owners should take steps to further secure controlled substances, he said.

“Ensuring that [pharmacies are] locked and the alarm systems are in place, keeping the drugs of the highest volatility further secured would be best,” he said.

Mitra Lazzaroni, owner of the Marsh Village Pharmacy, said she is going to install more security measures, including cameras and an iron gate for the storefront.

“I don't know how it will look, but I need to do it,” she said.

When a break-in occurs, the pharmacy's alarm service quickly alerts her and local law enforcement authorities, Lazzaroni added, but it is not enough. “They call us and they call the police, but by the time they get there, they are gone.”

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