Pharmacies in San Diego County have increasingly become the target of armed robberies and nighttime break-ins
"The people who work in these pharmacies are just doing their job and lo and behold, someone will come in and stick a gun in their face because they're seeking opioid," said Amy Roderick, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego.
The numbers are quite alarming--so far this year, there have been 26 armed robberies of pharmacies and 23 night time break-ins across the county. In 2015, there were six armed robberies and no pharmacy nighttime break-ins.
"We have what we call counter jumpers, where they will mill around the pharmacy, wait for the pharmacist to turn their back, literally jump the counter, scoop stuff and run," Roderick explained.
The crook's motives can range. Some are addicts and others are looking for drugs with opiates like cough syrup that they can sell on the black market.
"If the pharmacy purchases the cough syrup with Codeine and Promethazine, anywhere from $8 to $12 a bottle, that same bottle can be sold on the street from $500-$800," said Roderick.
Medco Pharmacy in El Cajon was one of the many targeted.
A pharmacist told NBC 7 Investigates, prescription drugs were stolen on more than one occasion--and at times, she feared for her life.
"The better we do of keeping the pills off the street and over-prescribing, the more they're going to resort to things like pharmacy robberies to get their opioid," said Roderick.
The numbers have continued to climb, especially between 2015 and 2016.
Last year there were 17 armed robberies and 14 nighttime break-ins.
The suspects aren't just targeting certain areas, like El Cajon but across the county.
Just last week, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, calling it "the worst drug crisis in American history."