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Burglaries buck falling pharmacy crime trend

Crime investigation Despite a 4 per cent drop in overall crime in 2011, the number of violent crimes and burglaries in UK pharmacies shows no sign of easing as pharmacists report assaults with screwdrivers and needles.

The number of violent crimes and burglaries in UK pharmacies shows no sign of falling, despite overall crime decreasing 4 per cent in 2011, C+D's crime investigation has revealed.

The investigation, which looked at pharmacy crime including shoplifting, violence and harassment across 44 police constabularies, showed fewer total incidents in 2011 than in 2010*. But in a more worrying twist, the investigation revealed that robberies and burglaries had increased by 9 per cent.

Violent crime also remained at a stable level, with 372 offences recorded across the UK in 2011

More from C+D's crime investigation

Pharmacy crime falls 11 per cent in Northern Ireland

Violent crime soars in Scottish pharmacies

Pharmacy crime hasn't gone away

Violent crime also remained at a relatively stable level, with 372 offences recorded across the UK in 2011 – just 12 (3 per cent) less than in 2010. Pharmacists reported being threatened, assaulted and held up with weapons including a screwdriver and a needle, resulting in 63 injuries in total.

The results tallied with findings from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which told C+D it had noticed "more targeted theft and serious, organised crime" last year, including "an increase in robbery and abuse".

Pharmacy groups expressed concerns over the trend, with Numark managing director John D'Arcy branding some of the violent crimes and threats uncovered "alarming". "One of the advantages of pharmacy is accessibility, but it can be a disadvantage when we're on the frontline and vulnerable to this type of abuse," he told C+D. "It becomes an occupational hazard and it's a credit to pharmacy staff that they're getting through it – some accept it as part and parcel of the job."

Charity Pharmacy Support backed the sentiments, saying it was "pleasing" to hear overall crime had dropped but expressing worries over the violent crime rates. "We are certainly concerned by the levels of violent crimes involving weapons and injuries and recognise that, where drugs are involved, the potential for violence can be quite high," said charity manager Diane Leicester.

The Co-operative Pharmacy reported it had seen a "slight rise in customer disturbances" across the chain – stressing that it was continually reviewing its branches to identify where security could be improved.

But this may not be an option for some independent pharmacies, argued Avicenna CEO Salim Jetha. Although pharmacies had generally stepped up security over the past few years, he said, the tough economic conditions could put an end to these developments. "When there are funding cutbacks and you need to protect your core business, people don't want to invest in shutters and CCTV," he explained. "The economic climate is also forcing pharmacists to reduce their staffing levels, and that can affect the security of the premises."

The BRC retail crime survey 2011 also found a reduction in overall offences but an increase in robberies – although, at 20 per cent, the rise in the latter was more than double that in pharmacies. The BRC found that the cost of retail crime to British businesses was £1.4 billion a year, up almost a third.

Eight per cent of NHS staff report experiencing physical violence from members of the public, according to the health service's 2011 staff survey.

C+D's 2011 crime investigation was carried out through Freedom of Information requests to all 52 geographical police constabularies in the UK. Forty-four constabularies responded to the request; those that didn't were Durham, Northamptonshire, Surrey, Warwickshire, Northern and Dyfed Powys; Hampshire, North Yorkshire declined to provide the information as it was not available in a "retrievable format".

*Comparison data is taken from the 40 police constabularies that gave C+D data for both 2010 and 2011

Are you concerned about rising rates of burglaries?

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Adina Brown, Community pharmacist

shoplifting, burglaries, attacks are realities of life, whether, running a shop or living in one's own home, but it should never be accepted or described as part and parcel of a job. NO.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Being a fairly tall, male dispenser means I have rarely faced the issue of intimidation or the threat of physical violence, but from stories I have heard it is easy to see how it happens. Clearly being in a situation where violence or theft can occur is unacceptable regardless of the reasons why.

There are cheaper alternatives to reducing targeted crimes, such as dummy cameras and even bog standard zero tolerence posters around which allows people the choice to think about what doing.

Though I do believe a pharmacy should have a good level of security, just through the nature of the business and the conquences that stolen medication can have to not just the pharmacy itself, but the entire local area.

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