Ottawa police are dealing with a slew of unsolved crimes after a demand for a highly addictive painkiller resulted in a string of pharmacy robberies over a one-month period.
Between Sept. 11 and Oct. 13, police investigated 20 drugstore robberies and four attempted robberies, all targeting OxyContin, one of the most potent painkillers on the market, said Staff Sgt. Don Sweet of the Ottawa Police Robbery Unit.
While in the past, robberies targeting the drug — dubbed “Hillbilly Heroin” — were usually perpetrated by addicts, Sweet said police believe that these robberies are linked, and that the drugs are sold street level through established distribution lines.
“This is way more than what we saw originally,” he said. “You’re always going to see addicted individuals, but this is a newer angle where all of a sudden, we see a huge spike.”
Priced according to the strength of the drug, the robberies prove “very lucrative” for criminals, Sweet added.
In Ottawa, 10, 20 and 40 mg tablets are sold for $20 to $40 a pill, while an 80 mg tablet fetches $40 to $50 per pill.
And it’s not just pharmacies that have been targeted.
Police have investigated thefts of OxyContin from delivery trucks and pharmacy-related frauds where the perpetrators get elderly people to pick up the drugs.
“It’s very sought after and criminals are seeking different ways of getting in,” he said.
The majority of the robberies are perpetrated by younger black males using notes, Sweet said. Most of the robberies happen after 8 p.m. in the suburbs in the west and east ends of the city.
While there is no violence associated with these robberies, there is always the threat of violence, he said.
Police believe that they have charged one of the “main players” in this operation, but are looking for the individuals performing these robberies.