RX for ending prescription pill abuse? NYC tries GPS to track ‘bait bottles’

Posted at 6:20 PM, Jan 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-16 18:23:25-05

It’s long been considered a suburban problem, but over the last few years prescription pain killer abuse and the accompanying crimes have skyrocketed throughout New York City.

The New York Senate Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse says the number of pharmacy burglaries in the five boroughs more than doubled in 2011.

Last year, one man was killed while he and a partner tried to steal pain killers from a pharmacy in Harlem.

“It’s at epidemic proportions, people are becoming addicts,” said retired NYPD detective and PIX11 contributor Wally Zeins.

But now NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly is trying to put a cap on the problem with the help of GPS.

On Tueday, at the Clinton Health Conference in California, the Commissioner laid out plans to put tracking systems in “bait bottles” at pharmacies throughout the city.

Rather than actual oxycodone, the bottles would have a placebo and a GPS.  Kelly says the tracking device could lead police to larger stash houses and major busts.

“A phony bottle with nothing in it except a GPS, I think it’s a good idea,” said pharmacist John Noone.

Noone says addicts would have a tough time figuring out which is the bait bottle when it’s stored along with all the regular prescriptions, so they’re likely to scoop it up with the rest.

“Someone comes up here, they’re in a panic, they might not know it’s in a drawer, they might not know it’s on a shelf, they’re going to look everywhere and they may just run out of time,” Noone said.

Police say these drugs aren’t just being stolen for personal use.

Each 30mg pill of oxycodone can sell for up to $100 on the street, which means that, when it’s full, a tiny bottle has a street value of up to $10,000.

“It just doesn’t necessarily does not have be just this particular drug,” Zeins said. “It can be other drugs that are also on the market that people want to steal and have a return high value for.”

While the Drug Enforcement Administration already monitors every pain pill, it’s difficult to keep track once they leave the pharmacy.

That’s why Commissioner Kelly says “Operation Safety Cap” will also include prescription education programs for students at city schools.

“If you let all the high schools and all the kids know about it, it would help,” said parent Betsy Todd.

With a new DEA task force partnership, Kelly hopes he can prevent needless deaths in desperate attempts for drugs.