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Police to keep closer eye on pharmacies

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer discuss the recent approach the Suffolk county police department has taken in order to close the case in the Medford pharmacy shooting on Father's Day. Courtesy: News 12 (June 23, 2011)

Suffolk police plan to keep a closer watch on independent pharmacies in the aftermath of the Medford drugstore killings, a department spokeswoman said.

Following Sunday's shootings, Community Oriented Police Enforcement and Crime Control units were pulled from normal duties. One shop owner noticed a patrol car outside her store's front door; another had an officer enter the business to check in.

In the wake of Wednesday's arrest of a suspect, police have returned the special unit reinforcements to their normal duties, but patrol officers have been directed to keep a "heightened awareness" of pharmacies on their beats -- particularly independent pharmacies that are increasingly targets of robberies for controlled-substance painkillers, the spokeswoman said Thursday

Howard Levine, executive director of the Long Island Pharmacists Society and owner of Belmont Drugs in West Babylon, said he hoped the increased presence doesn't fade away.

Last year, as local U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents were doubling their pharmacy break-in investigations, Levine's store was held up twice.

"Had the police come in before, I might have been a little more prepared," Levine said. "We need to know, because for every guy they lock up, there's 10 more behind him."

The Medford killings have made pharmacists take stock of their own procedures with security in mind, said Joanne Hoffman Beechko, president of the local pharmacists society and operator of Rx Express in East Northport.

Common practices, from the dispensing and storing of pills to monitoring the amounts carried, will be reviewed. "Basically everything," she said.

A law enforcement source said David Laffer, the Medford suspect, stole as many as 10,000 hydrocodone pills.

Levine, meanwhile, said it will take legislation limiting quantities that can be prescribed -- and the doctors able to prescribe them -- to bring change.

"We can't let these people just die in vain," he said of the four Medford victims.

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