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Database allows prescription drug crime tracking

Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National

Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, HIDTA regional director Chauncey Parker, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and NYC Health and Mental Hygiene commissioner Thomas Farley field questions at a press conference about HIDTA and its potential success in combating prescription abuse related crimes across the state. (Feb. 15, 2013) Credit: Nancy Borowick

Whether in Nassau, Suffolk, New York City or beyond, painkiller thefts can be tracked in a new database accessible by police agencies across the region -- allowing investigators to detect a mosaic of connected drug crimes, officials announced Friday.

So far, the database has information about 107 of New York State's prescription-drug robberies and burglaries last year -- mostly of oxycodone and hydrocodone, according to the office of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). He pushed for the database after two notorious pharmacy homicide cases on Long Island.

"It's the first of its kind," Schumer said. Since 2007, he said, more than 1,800 pharmacies nationwide have been robbed.

Before the database went online at the beginning of the year, individual law enforcement agencies couldn't always systematically compare notes.

Now investigators can use the database to quickly access information that could help police determine whether, say, a string of pharmacy robberies in Queens matches a series of such crimes in Suffolk County.

The database, created using Microsoft Access, is run through a local-federal partnership called HIDTA, the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, which includes the NYPD and Nassau and Suffolk police departments, along with federal law enforcers.

"This, I believe, is an example of a great American government success story," said Chauncey Parker, a former federal prosecutor who heads the drug-trafficking partnership.

He added: "It's available at the fingertips of local law enforcement."

Schumer advocated for the database after the two Long Island robberies in 2011: On New Year's Eve of that year, a holdup and shootout at a Seaford drugstore left an off-duty federal agent and the ex-con thief dead, and on Father's Day in Medford, an addicted Army veteran shot and killed four people in a pharmacy before fleeing with thousands of pain pills.

Nassau police spokesman Insp. Kenneth Lack said: "This program dovetails perfectly into our intelligence-led policing and predictive analyses efforts."

Parker said the database has no additional costs. His task force, which gets federal funds and is one of more than two dozen nationwide, has an annual budget of $12 million.

So far, only New York is included, he said, but he's working to add New Jersey. He said police departments aren't obligated to contribute but are encouraged to, adding: "Everyone has a piece of the puzzle."

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