In an effort to curb the growing epidemic of Americans abusing prescription drugs, the NYPD will begin asking pharmacies in the city to mix in so-called “bait bottles” containing GPS locator chips into their stocks of prescription drug medications, CBS News reports.
According to NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, prescription drug abuse has become an unsustainable public health problem for the city. Police hope that putting locator chips in some medication bottles will allow them to effectively track stolen bottles and uncover large-scale prescription drug stash houses:
In prepared remarks provided in advance of his appearance [at a conference on health issues hosted by Bill Clinton], Kelly says the initiative was prompted by a spate of high-profile crimes associated with the thriving black market for prescription drugs, including the slaying of four people on Long Island during a pharmacy holdup in 2011. He also cites the case of a retired NYPD officer who, after retiring with an injury and getting hooked on painkillers, began robbing drug stores at gunpoint.
Prescription drug abuse “can serve as a gateway to criminal activities, especially among young people,” the commissioner says. “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.”
The NYPD has begun creating a database of the roughly 6,000 pharmacies in the New York City area with plans to have officers visit them and recommend security measures like better alarm systems and lighting of storage areas. Kelly says it also will ask them to stock the GPS bottles containing fake oxycodone.
NYPD’s medication-tracking initiative comes on the heels of earlier measures to track the distribution and sale of prescription drugs. Last summer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) signed an expansive drug abuse prevention bill requiring, among other provisions, centralized electronic monitoring of prescription drugs and safe disposal programs for unused medications.
According to national surveys, prescription drug abuse is America’s fastest growing drug problem, and over a third of American youth over the age of 12 who abused drugs for the first time used non-prescribed medications. While 35 states have active Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs), New York is the first to propose a sting operation of its kind in conjunction with pharmacies.