Police are warning businesses and looking for suspects after almost two dozen Calgary pharmacies have been robbed within about two months.
There have been 23 pharmacy heists reported across Calgary since June, police said Friday.
In most of the incidents, the robbers approached pharmacy employees while brandishing a weapon — or indicating that they had a weapon — before demanding money and pharmaceutical drugs, police said.
Only very minor injuries were reported, Insp. Philip Hoetger, the head of the robbery unit, told CBC News.
In the event of a holdup, he said staff and pharmacy owners should co-operate before preserving the scene as best they can.
"We really encourage people just to let the robbery happen," Hoetger said.
"That includes to the victims or pharmacists or other customers. You don't want anybody to get themselves in a more dangerous sort of circumstance."
Some robberies appear related as police work on big picture
Although "all types" of pharmacies had been hit, Hoetger said smaller shops seemed to have been targeted.
"One of the concerning pieces is that a number of them [have targeted] quite small, sort of more independent pharmacies, where there might be less people or less security measures."
While some of the heists appear to be related, Hoetger said police are still working to find out more, and where the drugs are going.
"It does appear to be certainly related to illicit drug use, but at the same time, one of the things we're really trying to figure out … is what the bigger picture is," said Hoetger.
Police released security camera images of several suspects from multiple robberies.
Investigators are asking for the public's help and are working with partner agencies, including the Edmonton police and RCMP, to identify the culprits.
Anyone with information about these suspects is asked to call the non-emergency police number at 403-266-1234.
Tips to stay safe
In an effort to help keep businesses and employees safe, police advised staff at pharmacies to:
Trust their instincts. If suspicious behaviour is noticed, contact police.
Minimize the amount of cash and drugs readily available on site.
Keep safes locked at all times.
Utilize a panic alarm for employees.
Place height strip tape on the interior side of the main entrance door.
Keep any doors separating the pharmacy from the store locked.
Call 911 immediately if a robbery occurs and lock the doors to the premise after the offender leaves to preserve evidence until police arrive.