A story in the May 6, 2008, Tomahawk Leader with tips on how to prevent medication and property thefts:
With prescription drug abuse on the rise, area law enforcement want citizens to be aware and educated on how to properly safe-keep and dispose of their medications, as well as how to protect their property and identity from drug-related crimes.
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Investigator Carla Peters noted that misuse of prescription drugs is an increasing problem in the county, encompassing ages from youth to older adults.
The primary prescription drug of choice being abused is OxyContin, an opiate, Peters said. It is followed in popularity by controlled medications such as methodone, Suboxone, Zanex, morphine, Vicodin and Clonopan. Abusers crush the medication and either snort or inject the drug for a heroin-type high. Street cost for such drugs is about $1 per gram, she relayed.
Youth even hold “pharm parties,” Peters said. Teens are encouraged by friends to steal any medication they can find from their family medicine cabinets so, at the party, they can all be combined. Then, each youth takes a handful – an extremely dangerous and potentially fatal action, Peters indicated.
“People are getting addicted, and they go through any means of getting it,” Peters observed.
In extreme cases, methods can involve theft, burglaries and robberies.
While the general citizenry should not live in fear, Peters suggests being alert and educated to this relatively new criminal behavior.
Peters suggested the following tips:
•Don’t keep medication in plain view, whether it’s in a home bathroom cabinet, purse or vehicle. Instead, keep it locked in a safe or lockbox.
“It may be inconvenient, but you don’t want it to be convenient for criminals,” Peters noted.
•Lock your house and car, even when you are at home.
•Discard all old medications and controlled substances. Collection events have been hosted in the past to do this safely, and more are being scheduled in the area, Peters said.
•Install dusk to dawn lights and/or motion detector lights.
•If leaving for an extended period of time, notify neighbors, friends and family. Have people stop by periodically to show there is still activity at the residence.
•Install deadlocks. One can also purchase affordable alarm systems at discount stores that hang on doorknobs or install on windowsills and doors.
“These are excellent ways to protect yourselves,” Peters noted.
•Don’t fall for distraction methods. If having a rummage sale, for example, and a customer asks to use the restroom, don’t let them in. They could be seeking to steal prescription drugs.
•Shred all mail and documents with personal information to protect yourself against identity theft. Taking it a step further, watch for possible identify theft by checking your credit report for possible fraud. http://www.annualcreditreport.com will issue one free credit report per year, Peters advised.
“It’s a good way to safeguard and be on top of your credit,” she explained.
Many criminals attempt to take out credit cards in someone else’s name to buy illegal drugs or items.
•Write down serial numbers to guns, electronics and other valuables. For jewelry, take photos. Send the lists and photos to your e-mail, store them on a CD and give it to family or friends for safekeeping, Peters offered.
“That CD can be a tremendous tool (in solving a crime). During a traumatic experience, it can be difficult to explain all the information,” she added.