Burglars wiped a Briargate-area pharmacy's shelves clean, taking a large quantity of addictive and potentially dangerous narcotics in what was at least the fifth reported drug store heist in Colorado Springs this year.
Police received a call about the break-in at Professional Pharmacy, 595 Chapel Hills Drive, about 3:30 a.m. The pharmacy is inside the Briargate Medical Campus.
The owner, who was notified by a private monitoring firm that the burglar alarm had gone off, arrived to find that the business had been broken into and prescription narcotics taken.
"It's always concerning when we have a large quantity of narcotics going . out on the streets, both for adults and kiddos," said police Lt. Howard Black. "We want to get the suspect in custody as soon as possible, but it's even more important that we work to get those drugs before they hit the street."
Police did not release any suspect information.
Although it is difficult for police to gauge the effect of one burglary, investigators will be looking closely at individual locations, particularly high schools, for an uptick in certain narcotics, Black said.
The pharmacist told Gazette news partner KKTV that the suspects wiped shelves clean, stealing between $10,000 and $20,000 in drugs, including opioids OxyContin and hydrocodone.
Opioids are highly addictive, causing six in 10 of all drug overdoses nationwide and killing at least 91 Americans daily, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999, and the amount of the opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals and doctors nearly quadrupled between 1999 and 2010, the CDC says.
In addition to burglaries, the drugs also have been stolen during several armed robberies of pharmacies.
On March 22, police arrested a man suspected of robbing multiple pharmacies at gunpoint. Joseph Martinez, 36, allegedly stole about 15,400 pills, primarily pain and anti-anxiety medications, between November 2016 and March 2017 that were routed to the black market, court records say.
Martinez was arrested on suspicion of six counts of aggravated robbery and one count of attempted robbery, all felonies. He remains in the El Paso County jail.
One of the five reported burglaries this year happened on Jan. 16 at Ivywild Pharmacy, 1640 South Nevada Ave. The burglar broke the window but did not steal anything, Donna Hawkins, the pharmacy's owner said. Police said nothing was stolen in another burglary on May 10 at TLC Pharmacy, 555 E. Costilla St.
The two other burglaries this year were at Village Pharmacy at 3277 West Carefree Circle. The Village Pharmacy was also held up by Martinez. The owner declined to comment on any of the incidents.
Police said they are still reviewing the Professional Pharmacy's inventory to figure out what was taken and how much during Friday's heist.