Walgreens installs time-delayed safes to deter robberies


Criminals will now have to stand around and wait for the safes to open. Wonder what they'll do while they're waiting.

In an effort to discourage robberies, Walgreens has installed time-delayed safes at all of it pharmacies in seven states and in parts of two others. The safes are bolted to the floor and are used to secure commonly used controlled substances often targeted by criminals.

“We originally installed the time-delayed safes in Washington State in 2009 and have expanded their use in other states after seeing a decrease in pharmacy robberies,” said Phil Caruso, a Walgreens spokesman. “Once activated by a pharmacist, the safe is designed to remain locked for several minutes. This concept is widely used in the banking and retail industry as a way to successfully eliminate the immediate availability of items frequently targeted in robberies.”

To obtain the drugs contained in the safe, the pharmacist must activate the safe. Even after the pharmacist activates the safe, it remains locked for several minutes. Walgreens did not disclose the length of the delay.

“This concept is widely used in the banking and retail industry as a way to successfully eliminate the immediate availability of items frequently targeted in robberies,” Caruso said.


No impact to customers

Thus far, the safes have been installed in all Walgreens pharmacies in Washington, Tennessee, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Ohio, and Oklahoma. They have also been installed in some Walgreens pharmacies in northern Kentucky and northwest Arkansas.

“By securing inventory of commonly used controlled substances that are frequently targeted by criminals, we eliminate the immediate availability and access to select drugs and successfully discourage pharmacy robberies across regions where they are in use,” Caruso said. “This technology won’t stop all robbery attempts, but it is proven to be effective at significantly reducing their number.”

The safes were recently installed at Walgreens pharmacies in Oklahoma.

"I feel like individuals who would originally intend to rob our pharmacies are going to think twice because it's going to increase their chances of being caught,” pharmacist Olivia Ochoa told KOTV. “They're going to have to stay in the pharmacy longer."

Walgreens District Loss Prevention Manager Jory Withers told the station: "As we've implemented this we've been very careful of making sure our workflow will accommodate the use of the time-delay safe with a minimal impact to the customer, so it shouldn't affect the customer in any way."


Pros and cons

Not all pharmacists are convinced. “I am a pharmacist and have been held-up three times for drugs. Walgreens is protecting their money, not their employees,” read one post under the Tulsa World story about the time-delayed safes. “Those who resort to hold-ups to obtain their desired drug don't think straight. They will think the pharmacist, if properly motivated, can get them. Somebody is likely to be badly hurt as a result of this decision.”

Caruso said Walgreens is simply “tipping the balance” toward higher risk versus reward for criminals. “Robbers understand the longer they remain at a crime scene, their higher the likelihood they’ll get caught,” Caruso said. “They also understand the longer they stay, the more surveillance footage we have of them, which has been extremely beneficial to local authorities in identifying and arresting these criminals. Ample signage has been placed throughout stores to warn would-be criminals that time-lock safes are in place.” 

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