Sitting ducks -- Pharmacists fear for their safety

FOLLOWING a series of break-ins from Kirra to Banora Point, pharmacy workers now fear for their safety, with many saying they are ill-equipped to prevent further attacks. At least five local pharmacies have been targeted since January, including one Tweed Heads store last week.

In most cases the burglaries took place at night, with thieves in and out of the store in minutes and making off with cold and flu medication containing pseudoephedrine, which is used to manufacture illegal drugs. Tweed Heads pharmacist Brian Curran knows what it is like to fall victim to drug thieves.

The Night and Day Pharmacy on Kennedy Drive, where he works, was raided back in February after thieves smashed a door lock and forced the door open.

"We have now changed the locks so they are on the inside of the doors and we are angling with the owner to get CCTV cameras installed," he said.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has been working with police in developing new strategies to prevent the theft of cold and flu medication.

They recommend installing security cameras and locking up pseudoephedrine products in a safe.

A number of local pharmacists contacted by the Tweed Daily News refused to talk on the record about the issue for fear they would be targeted next.

One pharmacist, who did not want to be named, said he thought there was little that could be done in the way of security short of hiring someone to guard the premises overnight.

Another woman said many pharmacies in the area did not have the resources to increase their security. "A lot of pharmacies don't have the facilities or the room to install safes, which are expensive," she said.

This month, the Pharmacy Guild began rolling out a new national initiative called Project STOP, where staff can scan IDs and record the details of people who ask for pseudoephedrine products. \ This is designed to stop drug runners, who move across large areas stocking up on cold and flu medication.

"They can check the ID against a data base and see if one person is going from one place to another and trying to stock up," a guild spokesman said.

He said the project had been successful so far, with a number of arrests being made as a direct result.

Tweed Heads police have been conducting investigations and searching for drug labs along the coast.

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