NYPD: 'Bait bottles' with GPS devices could help track pharmacy thieves

Story highlights

  • The idea is to plant GPS devices in "bait bottles" that could be taken by robbers
  • "We'll be able to track the bottle, which may lead us to stash locations," says a police official
  • A pharmacist has a mixed reaction: "It's a good idea to track people that are stealing"
  • But, he says, "the people taking it (in a robbery) will know that something is in there"
The New York Police Department will attempt to fight prescription drug thefts by asking pharmacies around the city to plant Global Positioning System devices in fake pill bottles, according to Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
In a prepared statement for the Clinton Foundation's Health Matters Conference on Tuesday, Commissioner Kelly said the GPS-linked "bait bottles" will be hidden among legitimate supplies on pharmacy shelves, and will aide officers in tracking down stolen drugs immediately after a robbery.
"In the event of a robbery or theft, we'll be able to track the bottle, which may lead us to stash locations across the city," he said.
One Manhattan pharmacist contacted by CNN had a mixed reaction to the bait-bottle idea.
"It's a good idea, it may help, but it might not," said Ali Yasin, chief pharmacist at New York City Pharmacy in the East Village neighborhood.
"Most doctors and pharmacists won't like it. Suppose the tablet that's the (GPS) device, the patient swallows it. What's the liability?"
"Or, the people taking it (in a robbery) will know that something is in there," he said, adding that despite any issues, "it's a good idea to track people that are stealing and selling illegally."
The bait bottles will be one part of "Operation Safety Cap," Kelly said.
In addition to the bait bottles portion of the plan, Kelly said the NYPD is building a database of all, nearly 6,000, licensed pharmacists in New York. The database is expected to be completed in March.
"We're using this database to visit pharmacists and make specific security recommendations, everything from installing special alarm systems for storage areas to illuminating stores during non-business hours," Kelly said.
He cited several incidents in New York where prescription drugs were at the center of violence, including an incident involving a retired NYPD officer who was addicted to OxyContin and "began robbing drug stores at gunpoint."
The NYPD has also established a drug diversion task force together with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which gives the NYPD access to the DEA's "vast, nationwide database which tracks the distribution of controlled substances," according to Kelly.
Kelly estimated that the programs will cost the NYPD about $4 million a year, though he said he is not concerned about the price tag.
"If we can save even one life, it will be money well spent," Kelly said.