Kentucky State Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-36 | Photo by Jonathan Meador

Huddled in a cramped pharmacy in the back of an East End CVS Pharmacy as customers filled their prescriptions, local officials touted the drugstore chain’s installation of time-delay safes across its 77 Kentucky locations — including 21 Louisville stores — as a means to deter drug robberies.

On hand were Kentucky state senator Julie Raque Adams, R-36, and Sgt. Tom Schardein, head of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s narcotics division.

Both discussed the potential for the new mechanism to prevent potential criminals from access to the store’s safe, which now contains sought-after opiates like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Placards and signs around the store also mentioned the new safes to further the deterrence effect.

A sign warns potential robbers of the new time-delay safe. | Photo by Jonathan Meador

CVS said the safes can be locked by a pharmacist who enters a special code into the locking mechanism, and will not respond to override attempts until after a set amount of time has elapsed.

A spokeswoman declined to provide details regarding the model. The company first implemented the technology in some of its Indianapolis stores in 2015, which resulted in a 70 percent decrease in pharmacy robberies, the company said.

Speaking before a clear plastic podium mere feet from the busy pharmacy counter, Sen. Adams said that she regularly patronizes this CVS in her district, located just off Shelbyville Road at Moser Road, was “proud” to participate in the announcement.

“I’m very grateful to our business partners like CVS who have stepped up and created innovative ways that we can divert this crime from happening,” Adams said.

Sgt. Schardein said that while that particular CVS hadn’t experienced any robberies, he said a few in the area had, but would not specify which ones, citing safety reasons. He added that, aside from deterrence, the LMPD, CVS and other drug providers in the city are working in concert to conduct drug diversion operations, targeting both prescribers and abusers.

Adams’ preferred CVS is located in the LMPD’s 8th patrol division, which has the lowest rate of robberies among all divisions between January and October 2018, at 34 reported robberies, according to the most recent crime statistics released by the department. In that same time frame, the highest rates of robbery — 217 reports — were in the 4th division, which appears to have just one CVS pharmacy located on the 5300 block of South 3rd Street.

The company said it had also begun disposing of drugs in nine “safe medication disposal units” at its pharmacies in Kentucky and has already disposed of over half a million pounds of expired or otherwise erstwhile medications to date.

Competing pharmacy chain Walgreens has been using a similar deterrent system, as well. According to the National Institute of Justice, “Research shows clearly that the chance of being caught is a vastly more effective deterrent than even draconian punishment.”

Both CVS and Walgreens have found themselves on the defensive in the wake of accusations that the companies played a role in the over-prescription of opioids. The state of Florida has sued both companies, asserting that as drug distributors, they “played a role in creating the opioid crisis.” Both companies’ websites say that they are committed to fighting opioid abuse.