A plan to use phony pill bottles fitted with GPS chips to track stolen prescription drugs is being unveiled by New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
The implementation of so-called "bait bottles" is part of an attempt to combat the prescription thefts, particularly of painkillers, that contribute to what Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls a citywide and national drug epidemic.
In prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press, Kelly claims the new initiative was prompted by numerous high-profile crimes linked to the thriving black market that currently exists for prescription drugs.
Among the incidents, Kelly includes the 2011 slaying of four people on Long Island during a pharmacy holdup, along with a recent case involving a retired NYPD officer who began robbing drug stores at gunpoint after retiring with an injury and getting hooked on painkillers.
Prescription drug abuse "can serve as a gateway to criminal activities, especially among young people . . . When pills become too expensive, addicts are known to resort to cheaper drugs such as heroin and cocaine. They turn to crime to support their habit," Kelly said in the prepared comments.
Pharmacies would be asked to mix in the "bait bottles" with containers of medications targeted by thieves. "In the event of a robbery or theft, we’ll be able to track the bottle, which may lead us to stash locations across the city," says Kelly.
According to the AP, approximately 6,000 pharmacies across the city will likely be contacted by police officers in the coming months to seek their involvement in the initiative, which will also request better-lit storage areas and improved alarm systems.
Kelly's scheduled appearance at a health conference in La Quinta, Calif., hosted by former President Bill Clinton’s foundation, was preceded last week by an announcement by Bloomberg on new restrictions on painkillers in the city's public hospital emergency rooms.
"Abuse of prescription painkillers in our city has increased alarmingly," said Bloomberg, who compared doctors who write false prescriptions to "holdups at neighborhood pharmacies."
According to Bloomberg, more than a quarter million New Yorkers over age 12 are abusing prescription painkillers, resulting in an increase in hospital admissions for overdoses and deaths.
In 2010 alone, more than 170 accidental overdose deaths tied to painkillers were reported, according to the city's health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley.
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