A wave of pharmacy burglaries by criminals going after a codeine-based cough syrup is prompting Fresno police to warn pharmacists to secure their businesses.
The alert was made public Wednesday during the Fresno police monthly Crime View session with the news media. Chief Jerry Dyer also noted that violent crime is down in the city in spite of a recent spike in shootings and that Fresno’s auto theft rate continues to drop, eliminating the city from the list of municipalities with the most stolen cars.
Dyer said thieves breaking into drug stores are after promethazine, which is mixed on the street with candy and soda to make a powerful drug known as “lean,” “purple drank,” and “sizzurp.” Former Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell’s career ended with an arrest for possession of the drug in Alabama. In 2013, a Madera pharmacist killed a bandit who opened fire while trying to take the drug at gunpoint.
The chief noted 13 burglaries of pharmacies in the past 28 days by crooks going after the drug, which he said sells in the store for about $5, but is valued on the street at more than $600. The break-ins are throughout the city and in Sanger and Visalia as well. Six people from the Compton and Los Angeles areas are in custody in connection with the heists. Police are urging pharmacies to add extra levels of security.
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Capt. Burke Farrah, of the Northwest Policing District, said businesses are urged to “harden the target,” to slow criminals down when they are breaking into stores trying to swipe the drugs.
On the other issue:
▪ Dyer said violent crime is down 8 percent for the year and 8.8 percent in the last 28 days. There were 42 shootings in the 28 day period, 22 of which were gang-related. Seventeen of the shootings were in southwest Fresno, prompting police to bring in extra officers and serve warrants in a search for guns, according to Capt. Mark Salazar.
▪ Police are on target to limit auto thefts in the city to 2,800, said Dyer, who contrasted that number with 13,000 stolen vehicles a year in the mid-1990s. Auto thefts are considered by the chief to be a gateway to violent crimes, because the vehicles are often used in robberies and drive-by shootings.