More addicts mean more armed robberies, pharmacists warn

Stephen Reid, with the province's pharmacists' association, says the province needs to curb drug addiction in order to prevent an increase in the number of armed robberies. He warns that it's only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed. (CBC)

Pharmacists in Newfoundland and Labrador say the province must do more to get drug addiction under control to stop an increase of armed robberies.

The Pharmacists' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador said its first reaction to the shooting death in Villa Nova Plaza in Conception Bay South last year was the realization of their worst nightmare.

Initially, they thought it was an armed robbery gone wrong, with two fatalities.

Stephen Reid, with the group, said while that wasn't the case, it easily could have been.

He said there are two types of robberies pharmacies deal with; drug dealers who plan and coordinate the robbery when the site is closed, or drug addicts who act on impulse at any time.

"The person's coming down, they're not of their right mind at that particular point in time and it's often something that's really scary for the people that are inside the pharmacy," said Reid.

According to Reid, pharmacists and their staff are dealing with post-traumatic stress following these incidents.

Reid added that armed robberies at other locations are still connected to drugs.

"The robberies that are occurring at the gas stations, at the Marie's [Mini Mart], at the variety stores anywhere around the province are also part and parcel of this problem of addiction," he said.

Reid said the association has urged government to do more to help curb addictions, but progress is slow.

"There seems to be a small movement in the area in terms of opening up some spaces in the St. John's area, but this has to be a larger strategy that helps with the addiction problem that's happening in Newfoundland and Labrador — and there is a growing addiction problem in the province," he said.

Reid said it's only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured in one of these incidents.

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