Pharmacies in West Michigan prepare for “surge” in crime this fall

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NORTON SHORES, Mich. - Police in Norton Shores said this is the time of year when they see an increase in prescription fraud and theft from pharmacies along the Lakeshore.

That is why police are sending out a warning to would-be criminals and working with pharmacists to cut down the statistics.

So far the partnership appears to be paying off.  According to Norton Shores Police Chief Daniel Shaw, the arrests for prescription drug crimes nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013.

One West Michigan pharmacist, Ken Fagerman, said the timing is no coincidence.

"Pharmacists feel a lot safer knowing that we are working together as a group and communicating," said Fagerman.  "The Pharmacy Crime Alert Network, as we call it, has been very successful in Muskegon County."

Pharmacists can share information with other pharmacists in the network about potential criminals trying to pass fake prescriptions.  That information is also funneled to police, who can make an arrest.

"Our real goal is not to put people in jail," said Fagerman.  "Our goal is stop the attempts."

One way to do that is to let the criminals know that people are watching out for them and have a method to make sure their crimes don't pay off.

"We have pharmacists that have volunteered to assist the county prosecutor as expert witnesses in the case," he said.  "We are trying to be proactive about this."

About 30 to 35 pharmacies in West Michigan are participating in the partnership with police.

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