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Pharmacies hit by violent crime, as police record over 1k incidents in 2021

Police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland received at least 1,240 reports of violent crime committed in pharmacies in 2021, C+D can exclusively reveal.

A total of 32 of the 45 UK police authorities revealed the extent and severity of crimes that pharmacists and pharmacy staff witnessed across the UK in 2021, providing data in response to C+D’s freedom of information (FOI) requests.

At least 1,240* reports of violent crimes – which includes violence against a person, public order offences, arson and criminal damage – at premises registered as a ‘pharmacy’ or ‘chemist’ were received by the 32 police forces that provided data to C+D.

What counts as an offence under the Public Order Act 1986?

Under Public Order Act 1986, public order offences include rioting, affray, drunk and disorderly behaviour, inciting racial or religious hatred or assaulting emergency workers.

Source: Crown Prosecution Service

Police in Scotland did not provide data to C+D, claiming that extracting the relevant data and information about crime in pharmacies “would cost well in excess" of the current cost threshold of FOI requests to police authorities.


Read more: Police received almost 16k reports of crime in pharmacies in just 2 years


How does the number of violent crime reports compare with 2019 and 2020?


Last year, C+D sent FOI requests to all 45 police forces across the UK. Of these, 34 responded with data revealing that they had received a total of 19,263* reports of any crime that had taken place within pharmacies in 2019 and 2020.

However, just 31 police forces went into detail to describe the different crimes pharmacy teams had witnessed during those two years.

In 2019, there were 784 incidents of violent crime, according to the data received by C+D, while this went up to 819 in 2020.


Violent crime accounted for almost a fifth of all crime in pharmacy in 2021


While there was a reduction in the number of overall incidents of crime in pharmacies reported to police authorities between 2019 and 2021, violent crimes accounted for a higher percentage of incidents reported in 2021.

A total of 10,780 incidents of crime were recorded in 2019, according to the data shared with C+D, while 8,483 were reported in 2020.

There were 7,363 crimes in pharmacies reported in 2021, taking the total number of reported incidents over the last three years to 26,626.

Violent crime accounted for 16.8% of all crime reported in 2021.


*The total number of reports received by police forces in 2019 and 2020 has been updated since we published our first “crimes in pharmacies” story in January, to take into consideration additional data from police forces that had not responded to C+D in time for publication. 

The findings presented in this article are the results of a wider C+D investigation into crimes in pharmacies and are the starting point of our campaign #NoExcuseForAbuse. Sign up to our newsletter and follow us on our social media channels to stay up to date with the latest findings.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, Pharmacist Support has provided a list of resources to turn to for support.


#NoExcuseForAbuse explained


How did C+D get hold of this data?

Between October 2021 and January 2022, C+D sent out requests for data under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act to all police authorities in the UK – 43 in England and Wales, as well as Police Scotland and Police Service Northern Ireland.

44 police forces responded to C+D’s requests for 2019 and 2020 data, while 34 of these were able to share it. 43 police forces responded to requests for data for 2021, with 32 of the authorities granting C+D the data.


What information did C+D request?

C+D asked each police authority a series of questions: the total number of crimes committed in pharmacies in 2019, 2020 and 2021; the total number of assaults or violent crimes; and a breakdown of the number of different types of crime that had occurred during those years.

The final question asked for additional details of the crimes – including the date, time, any weapons used, injuries and products or items targeted, and whether there had been any suspects arrested or cautioned in relation to the crime.


How representative are the figures for each region?

Police forces conducted searches of their crime management system, using location codes of crimes to decide whether it was relevant to C+D’s request.

Location codes differ depending on the force, with most using “chemist” or “pharmacy” when entering data for the sector. The Cumbria Constabulary, for example, completed searches for any crimes where the premises name contained ‘chemist’ or ‘pharma’, as they were unable to tell from the crime notes if the location is registered as a pharmacy.

The results were then filtered to remove any incidents that were recorded at a pharmacy location but in fact happened nearby on the street and were separate from the pharmacy or happened at other locations within a hospital but recorded as the pharmacy.

Suffolk and Norfolk Constabularies also told C+D that an incident location search “may not bring back all crimes occurring in a pharmacy or chemist if the name is not recorded in the premises name field or has not been labelled as a chemist in the premises type field”.

This indicates that more crimes may have been committed in pharmacies between 2019 and 2021.


Can the data be compared between different police forces?

In their responses, police authorities stressed that their data should not be directly compared with information provided by other forces, as “the systems used for recording these figures are not generic, nor are the procedures used locally in capturing the data”.


How were “violent crimes” classified?

C+D identified violent incidents as those classified as “violence against a person” or “assault” – with or without injury; public order offences; arson and criminal damage.

For the purposes of this investigation, C+D did not include “sexual offences” as a violent crime, unless the police force specified that the incident involved assault.


*This article is based on data made available to C+D at the time of going to press


Have you/your team been the victim of crime while at work? Did this involve violence and/or harassment? Share your experiences on the C+D Community or email [email protected] if you wish to remain anonymous


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