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Four out of five pharmacies (79 per cent) have been the victim of crime within the last year. The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) Crime Survey 2017, revealed that pharmacies nationwide are being targeted by criminals for shoplifting, break-ins and raids.

The IPU have warned that unless Garda visibility increases and sentencing grows tougher to act as a deterrent, the level of crime will continue to grow and lead to serious ramifications for employers, staff, and local communities alike.

Almost one-third of cases were described as “violent” and/or involving the use of a weapon: a knife was used in 77 per cent of weapon- related robberies or raids and a gun was present in 8 per cent of cases. The incidents are also apparently not isolated events, as 81 per cent of victims reported experiencing two or more episodes during 2017.

The findings from the survey were described by IPU President Daragh Connolly as “truly shocking” and he expressed  particular concern at the level of violent crimes against pharmacy staff, which he described as “extremely worrying and utterly unacceptable”.

He stated: “Almost one in three crimes against pharmacies is ‘violent’ in nature, involving not only a physical threat but also a substantial psychological threat to victims. It is difficult enough to run a pharmacy in the current environment without repeatedly being the target for criminal activity.

“Not only do these crimes have significant cost implications but, more importantly, they have a very detrimental impact on the people working in the pharmacy. It is unacceptable that pharmacy owners and their staff are viewed as ‘soft targets’, where the probability of repeat offences is high and the risk of apprehension and penalty is low”.

The research also found that 89 per cent of pharmacies who were victims of crime experienced shoplifting, while 17 per cent a break-in. The number of pharmacists who experienced a raid (13 per cent) was almost double last year’s figure (6 per cent).

Seventy three per cent reported the case to the Gardaí, with an overall 79 per cent reporting that their case was dealt with effectively. However, almost half of pharmacists (45 per cent) who decided not to report a crime did so because they felt the perpetrator would not be charged, while 23 per cent stated that they had no confidence in the Garda response.

Mr Connolly commented: “The Gardaí have had great success in reducing the level of burglaries since the start of Operation Thor almost two years ago. The high level of crime against pharmacies and their often violent nature indicates there is now a need for a similar targeted Garda operation to specifically tackle crimes against pharmacies. The IPU is eager to provide any assistance that would benefit the Gardaí”.