In the news: CVS, Illinois attorney general announce use of time-delay safes to prevent pharmacy thefts

December 1, 2021

President Chief Mitchell Davis (Hazel Crest) represents ILACP as a member organization of AG Raoul's Organized Retail Crime Task Force. He spoke at the press conference on November 30, 2021 and an excerpt of his comments appear below the article. Click here to jump to Davis' remarks.

Talia Soglin, Chicago Tribune, Article and video appeared in the Pantagraph on Nov. 30, 2021.

CHICAGO — CVS Health representatives, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and law enforcement officials gathered Tuesday to announce the rollout of time-delay safes in CVS pharmacies throughout the state — a measure intended to prevent pharmacy robberies in Illinois.

All 392 CVS pharmacy locations in Illinois now have the time-delay safe technology “up and running,” said Tom Moriarty, CVS Health’s chief policy officer. That includes CVS Health’s pharmacies located inside Target stores, he added.

“We believe this step is a meaningful contribution to our efforts to prevent prescription drug misuse and diversion here in Illinois, and make every community where we sit a safer place,” Moriarty said.

The CVS safes, which will be used for narcotics, operate on time delays that shift each day, officials said. A code must be entered to start the timer, and the safes cannot be opened until the timer expires.

When the timer expires, pharmacists remove only the drugs needed for that day. That means that if there was a robbery, the rest of the pharmacy’s narcotics would remain locked in the safe, which cannot be opened on demand, Moriarty said. Signage will alert potential robbers to the presence of the technology, a measure intended to serve as an additional deterrent to theft.

The new safes are a measure in support of the attorney general’s recently established Organized Retail Crime Task Force, officials said.

CVS’s time-delay safes have already been implemented in 20 states and Washington, D.C., Moriarty said. They have shown “significant success” in those areas, he added.

Raoul described pharmaceutical thefts as a crime carried out by “well-organized crime rings” who target drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. Raoul said other types of retail crimes, such as “smash and grab” thefts, were also “more often that not” incidents that were not isolated and could often be traced to larger organized crime enterprises.

“The installation of the safes is also a step toward preventing addictive substances from being sold illegally into our communities,” Raoul said.

Moriarty said retail thefts, including pharmacy thefts, have increased during the pandemic. Some products stolen from CVS during retail thefts are then sold illegally on online retailers, he said.

“It’s in part opportunity,” Raoul said when asked why he thought retail thefts had increased during the pandemic. “I think the crime rings seize upon despair and use some of the perpetrators as mules to feed their larger business.”

Moriarty said he appreciated the collaboration on the issue of pharmacy thefts.

“As we all know too well, this challenge is a complicated one,” Moriarty said. “It didn’t start overnight, it will not be solved overnight. But each step that we can take along the way is a step forward and a step that can make a difference in each of the communities in which we sit.”

President Davis addresses law enforcement's perspective

ILACP President Mitch Davis praised the action taken by CVS to proactively address pharmacy thefts that contribute to the opioid crisis.  

"Law Enforcement has always been at the forefront of the battle in keeping our community safe," he said. "While the professionals here at CVS and other places like it do their very best on a daily basis to help those that can legally possess opioids for medicinal purposes, there are those who seek to illegally acquire and distribute them for purposes of abuse. Abuses such as these not only hurt individuals but have a ripple effect on families and entire communities."

Davis recognized that collaboration and community-wide partnerships are critical in addressing pharmacy thefts.

"Through leadership like that which is consistently shown by Attorney General Raul, innovative efforts such a CVS this time-delayed medication safe will serve as an additional deterrent for those that might see CVS as a quick and easy target."

Davis compared the adoption of time-delay safes by CVS and other pharmacies to the steps taken by healthcare providers in the past to guard prescription pads from falling into the hands of criminals who would then fraudulently write prescriptions to obtain drugs for illegal purposed. Just like doctors now rely more on electronic prescriptions, Davis hopes that pharmacies will widely adopt CVS's forward-thinking policies to deter pharmacy theft. 

"While methods of illegal acquisition of opioids consistently evolve, collaborative prevention efforts from everyone involved in this partnership have to keep pace. I want to applaud CVS for identifying a problem and providing a solution through the implementation of their new time delayed safe systems," he said in closing. "I also want to thank Attorney General Raul for his continued leadership in the pooling of resources and promotion of partnerships that will help law enforcement to better serve all communities. Thank you."