Partnership Reduces Robberies

By Kevin Masterman
Kevin Masterman

Kevin Masterman

Media & Communications Coordinator



Pharmacy robberies have been drastically reduced in Toronto through the use of time-delayed safes thanks to a partnership with the Ontario College of Pharmacists and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police that now has spread across the province.

“A year ago, the Hold Up Squad was speaking publicly about the alarming increase in pharmacy robberies in Toronto," said Hold Up Squad Inspector Joseph Matys. "After working collaboratively with pharmacies across Toronto and with the Ontario College of Pharmacists, the introduction of time-delayed safes has resulted in an 82 per cent decrease in pharmacy robberies in Toronto so far in 2024 compared to the same time last year. This success speaks to the impact of time-delayed safes, but also demonstrates the importance of collaboration among stakeholders to address issues that impact the safety and well-being of our communities.”

All pharmacies across the province now use the time-delayed safes to store opiates like oxycondone and fentanyl.

“Pharmacy robberies are very lucrative – each pill obtained is sold for profit and there is an obvious demand,” Matys said. “The drugs would end up on the street, contributing to the opioid epidemic that is resulting in overdose deaths, and having a traumatic and devastating impact on our communities.”

He noted that the robberies were often violent putting employees and customers at risk and often employed stolen vehicles, compounding the impact of the crime.

Beginning in 2022, the TPS Hold Up Squad, in conjunction with the TPS Community Partnership and Engagement Unit, began collaborating with local pharmacies and external partner agencies like the Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP) and the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OACP) in an effort to spread awareness and safety tips, and to reduce incidents of robberies and victimization. 

Tips included recommending that pharmacies invest in good surveillance cameras, panic alarms, and of course, time-delayed safes. And making sure those safes remain locked at all times. Pharmacy robberies in Toronto began to drop sharply in 2023 and have decreased to a total of 10 pharmacy robberies so far in 2024 versus 60 at this time last year. 

All 4,900+ pharmacies in Ontario have now reported the use of time-delayed safes.

“This is a critical milestone that should serve as a signal to all would-be thieves that pharmacies are no longer an easy target to steal narcotics and that pharmacies are working closer than ever with local law enforcement to help deter pharmacy robberies,” said James Morrison, OCP Board Chair. “In working with law enforcement, we’ve learned that perpetrators who commit pharmacy robberies rely on getting in and out of a pharmacy quickly. The evidence is clear. When criminals know that narcotics are secured in a time-delayed safe, it serves as a strong deterrent.”

Police officer speaks at a podium with a sign reading
Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Mark Dapat speaks on the implementation of time-delayed safes Photo: Brent Smyth

The OCP Board carefully looked at the data from other provinces and determined that the benefits of both time-delayed safes and the associated signage was the most effective deterrent to reduce pharmacy robberies and help protect not only pharmacy staff, but the patients and communities they serve. The province-wide use of time-delayed safes is strongly supported by the OACP, local police departments, the Ontario Pharmacists Association, and various corporate and independent pharmacy partners.

“We are immensely thankful to our policing partners for their steadfast support and dedication to this initiative and the pharmacy profession for working with us to reach this important milestone,” added Mr. Morrison.

Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Community Safety and Crime Prevention Committee Co-Chair Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Mark Dapat said there was great risk to community safety because of the robberies.

“That’s why police services support the Ontario College of Pharmacists’ initiative to mandate time-delayed safes in pharmacies. Efforts to make such crimes more difficult to accomplish and to prevent them from happening are a public safety significant advancement. Mandating these safes acts as a robbery deterrent, improves overall safety, and prevents stolen narcotics from fuelling Ontario’s opioid crisis.”

Ontario Pharmacists Association CEO Justin Bates welcomed the news that pharmacies have taken the safety measures.

“The Ontario Pharmacists Association is proud to represent and support pharmacy professionals in their daily practice and today’s announcement is an important step to protecting pharmacy professionals and their ability to provide quality care to patients.”


hold up

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