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Call the police: The areas hardest hit by crimes in pharmacies

Police in five areas around the UK have each recorded more than 1,200 reports of crimes committed in pharmacies over a three-year period, according to data exclusively shared with C+D.

A total of 29 of the UK's 45 police authorities shared data with C+D for 2019, 2020 and 2021 in response to C+D’s freedom of information (FOI) requests.

C+D can now reveal which areas recorded more than 1,200* episodes of crimes committed in pharmacy over the three-year period.

 

Please note: Police authorities stressed that their data should not be directly compared with information provided by other forces, as they might use different systems to record these figures or follow different procedures to capture the data.

Rather than making direct comparisons between different forces, this article presents the combined results for 2019, 2020, and 2021 for each police force.

London: Over 3,700 reports

 

Data shared by the Metropolitan Police shows that the force recorded a total of 3,374 reports for crimes committed across Greater London’s pharmacies between 2019 and 2021.

 

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

 

It recorded 503 reports of violent crime – which includes violence against a person, public order offences, arson and criminal damage. This accounts for almost 15% of the 3,374 reports recorded.

Meanwhile, the City of London Police, which covers Liverpool Street, Monument, and Fenchurch Street on its eastern boundaries and Bank, Barbican, and Fleet Street on its western side, recorded 335 incidents of crimes in pharmacies over the same three-year period.

This brings the total number of recorded crimes in London pharmacies to 3,709 between 2019 and 2021, according to the data shared with C+D.

Commenting on these findings, Sanjay Ganvir – the superintendent pharmacist at Green Light Pharmacy, which has 13 branches across London – told C+D he is “massively upset” but “not surprised”.

“That’s actually the lived experience of pretty much everybody I speak to in pharmacy,” Mr Ganvir added.

Particularly during the pandemic, he has seen a rapid rise in unacceptable behaviour. “I think other parts of the NHS have structures and systems and, frankly, are better supported by the NHS,” he said.

“That is not [offered] to community pharmacy. It’s not acceptable,” he added.

 

Read more: City of London: Steady surge in reports of crimes in pharmacies

 

“When other parts of the NHS were not directly accessible to patients, the NHS looked to community pharmacy to pick up the slack and patients were disorientated by what was happening,” Mr Ganvir added.

“But did we get appropriate support from the NHS? No, we didn’t,” he said.

While he understands “why the public was upset and anxious” during the pandemic, public announcements about COVID-19 measures – including mask-wearing and social distancing – “sent out massive mixed messages”, which caused “unbelievable aggravation for community pharmacy”.

The “anti-vaccine sentiment” was another thing that pharmacies had to face with no central support, he added. “There’s got to be some learning from that.”

 

Read more: NHSE&I: Pharmacy COVID jab sites should adopt security plans against protestors

 

More than 1,500 reports in Humberside, West Yorkshire and Northern Ireland

 

Among the other police forces that recorded high levels of crime over the three-year period, Humberside Police categorised 1,791 reports, while West Yorkshire recorded 1,574.

Violent crime alone accounted for 304 reports, or 17% of all crimes recorded in Humberside, according to C+D’s analysis.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland registered 1,505 reports of crimes that took place in pharmacies during the same period, with 129 of those being violent crimes.

 

Read more: Health minister hits out at ‘appalling’ abuse after pharmacist stabbed

 

Commenting on the data for Northern Ireland, Joe Brogan, head of pharmacy and medicines management at the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) in Northern Ireland, told C+D that “it is unacceptable” that community pharmacists, who provide “an important service to their local community”, are “subjected to abuse or violent attack”.

“Any increase in violent attacks on staff is a significant concern,” he said.

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann “has repeatedly called on the public to respect all HSCB staff who have done such sterling work during the pandemic”, Mr Brogan added.

The HSCB board, “works closely with Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland to monitor and improve the security situation for our community pharmacies”, he said.

 

Nottinghamshire received more than 1,200 reports

 

Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire Police recorded 1,284 crimes between 2019 and 2021.

Of those reports, 8% (102) were violent crimes, according to C+D's analysis.

Earlier this week, C+D revealed that reports of crime committed in pharmacies in the City of London increased steadily between 2019 and 2021.

 

Meanwhile, in 2021 alone, police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland received at least 1,240 reports of violent crime committed in pharmacies.

 

 

#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

 

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.

Have you been on the receiving end of abuse or aggressive behaviour from patients? Share your experiences on the C+D Community or if you'd prefer to remain anonymous, please contact [email protected].

 

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