Wave of pharmacy burglaries continues to surge in Utah, Nevada

Composite image of Cedar City Police patrol vehicle with FBI seal | St. George News

CEDAR CITY —  Police are asking for the public’s help after two pharmacy burglaries occurred, one in Cedar City and the other in Mesquite, Nevada, within hours of each other Thursday, while police investigate dozens of similar incidents in Las Vegas that remain unsolved.

At 4 a.m., officers were dispatched to an alarm at Walgreens Pharmacy at 1948 W. Cross Hollow Road in Cedar City, Cedar City Police Sgt. Jerry Womack said.

In this 2017 file photo a robot is deployed as police investigate a possible bomb threat outside a Walmart Supercenter in Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 5, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“What officers found,” he said, “is a front door that was pried open, and then they broke out the pharmacy door window and were able to get into the medications.”

The store was equipped with video surveillance that showed the suspects inside the store removing medications while wearing masks or coverings over their faces, Womack said, making it difficult to determine their race or other identifiers.

More than one individual could be seen on the surveillance footage, yet detectives continue collecting evidence to determine how many suspects were actually involved in the incident. Police believe the suspects fled the store to an awaiting vehicle; but they were unable to obtain a vehicle make or description.

Investigators learned that pain killers and psych medications were missing after the suspects broke into the secured area where they were stored, Womack said.

The incident is still being investigated, so no additional information is being released at this time.

This is the second burglary reported in the area over the last two months, after Township Pharmacy at 108 W. 1325 North, Cedar City, was broken into in October.

The problem stretches beyond Utah.

Hours apart from the Cedar City incident another pharmacy burglary occurred in a Mesquite, Nevada. Police responded to an alarm activated at the store, Mesquite Police Public Information Officer Quinn Averett said.

Once on scene officers were able to determine that a break-in had occurred.

“Same suspects, same M.O., probably the same guys that are hitting up north,” Averett said.

Information regarding the Mesquite burglary has not yet been released to the public, he said, because of the “very active investigation.”

Suspect coming through entrance door of a Las Vegas pharmacy during burglary, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, St. George News

Eighty-two miles farther south police are investigating more than 20 pharmacy burglaries that have been reported in the Las Vegas area since May, according to information released by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department last week.

“These burglaries are being committed by what police believe to be the same group of individuals,” department spokesman Aden OcampoGomez said.

Each of the burglaries were similar, he said, and were committed during the early morning hours by two to three suspects wearing dark clothing, gloves and masks or hoodies over their heads. The suspects gained entry into the business by prying the entrance doors open.

Surveillance photos show the suspects emptying large quantities of controlled prescription drugs into trash cans before they fled the store in an awaiting vehicle.

The suspects involved in the Las Vegas burglaries have not yet been identified by police.

Anyone with any information about these incidents, or with any information about the identities or whereabouts of any involved suspects, is urged to contact the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department at 702-828-4809 or Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555, or go to www.crimestoppersofnv.com to leave information anonymously.

Agencies join forces and seek help from the FBI.

In October, police departments in Washington and Iron counties began working with federal officers to target the problem, Parowan Police Chief Ken Carpenter told St. George News at the time.

Carpenter requested federal assistance a month earlier after a Parowan pharmacy was hit for the second time.

Read more: Feds respond as number of pharmacy burglaries in Southern Utah continues to rise.

On Thursday Carpenter said the FBI is still involved in the investigation that began in October, and that the federal agency’s assistance has brought additional resources to the investigation.

Additionally, the federal resources have enhanced information sharing and coordination with police departments throughout the state, as well as interstate authority in the event narcotics are being taken across state lines.

Sandra Barker, public affairs specialist with the FBI’s Salt Lake City division, confirmed Friday: “Our agency is still involved in a joint investigation with local law enforcement and the DEA.”

The St. George Police Department is also involved in the multiagency investigation and have been working with federal officers throughout Southern Utah and Nevada since October, after four St. George pharmacies were broken into during a span of seven weeks from the end of summer to Oct. 9.

In Hurricane, a pharmacy burglary occurred at 2 a.m. Nov. 27. Officers responded to an alarm activation and found the business broken into, Hurricane Police spokesman Ken Thompson said.

“We haven’t had any other incidents since then,” he said.

A rash of pharmacy burglaries in Washington City kept detectives busy after one pharmacy was hit three times in less than a month between August and September, Washington City Police spokesman Ed Kantor said Friday.

One of the suspects involved in the third Washington incident was arrested at the scene by officers. A second suspect in that incident was arrested a few days later when he went to retrieve his vehicle. The car had been discovered by officers near the crime scene and seized before being impounded and were thus able to arrest the suspect there when he tried to come back to it.

Read more: 2nd suspect in burglary arrested while retrieving stolen car from impound

One accomplice in that third Washington incident remains at large.

“The other suspect left the area,” Kantor said, “and we may never be able to locate him.”

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  • youcandoit December 15, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    It’s getting to the point where they may have to remove all pain meds. To bank. And don’t go telling me about the marijuana drug, because in case you didn’t know the government is using that for an excuse to take our guns. So far Hawaii and California got letters. We need to stay United let’s not get divided. I’m on your side. Peace ✌

    • great success December 16, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Would you mind elaborating how the government is using marijuana to take our guns? I’m not following your connection there.

      Ironically, Utah has a BIG problem with pain meds. Pain meds and copious amounts of sugar seem to be the drugs of choice around these parts.

  • Caveat_Emptor December 17, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Judging from the videos on TV, these guys are athletic (leapt onto the counter). The MO obviously works for them, likely because these pharmacies are poorly secured at the perimeter, but more importantly the “good stuff” is easy to find and grab.
    It is unlikely that these places will be able to improve perimeter security, but we have to wonder why the targeted drugs are not secured within the building in a safe. The smash and grab nature relies on minimum elapsed time once the door is forced and the alarm goes off. If I was their insurance carrier I would be demanding better internal security. Better video quality helps, but a face covering is easy to deploy.

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