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Originally published Friday, May 16, 2014 at 10:08 PM

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Cops use GPS to track pharmacy robbery

Relying on a GPS device placed in a decoy pill bottle, New York City police officers tracked an armed man suspected of robbing a pharmacy Friday afternoon.


The New York Times

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NEW YORK — Relying on a GPS device placed in a decoy pill bottle, police officers tracked an armed man suspected of robbing a pharmacy Friday afternoon and fatally shot him during a confrontation on the Upper East Side on Manhattan, police officials said.

The decoy bottle was among a cache of drugs taken in an armed robbery about 1:30 p.m. from HealthSource Pharmacy, according to a police official, who was not authorized to speak about the investigation.

The suspect, whose identity was not immediately released by the police, was believed to have robbed pharmacies in New York City on at least four occasions since 2011, three times at the HealthSource drugstore.

The police official said the GPS device helped lead the police to the man, who was confronted as his 2007 Jeep was stuck in traffic. As officers closed in, the man pointed a handgun in the direction of at least one of the officers; one or more of the officers opened fire, killing the man, the police said.

The incident is the first known case in New York City in which a decoy bottle helped the police identify a suspect after a pharmacy robbery.

The decoy bottles were introduced last year by the police commissioner at the time, Raymond Kelly, who announced that the department would begin to stock pharmacy shelves with decoy bottles of painkillers containing GPS devices. The initiative was in response to a sharp increase of armed and often deadly pharmacy robberies across the state, often by people addicted to painkillers.

While the New York Police Department was not the first in the state to use the decoy bottles, it was among the first to publicize the program, believing that the publicity could deter prospective robbers.

Other police departments chose to keep the initiatives private, concerned that if robbers knew of the GPS devices, the risk to pharmacy workers could be greater.

The bottles are designed to be weighted and to rattle when shaken, so a thief does not initially realize they do not contain pills. Each of the decoy bottles sits atop a special base, and when the bottle is lifted from the base, it begins to emit a tracking signal.

Nationwide, decoy bottles developed by Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, a brand of oxycodone, have “assisted in the arrest of 111 pharmacy robbery suspects across the country, some of whom have been implicated in multiple pharmacy robberies,” said a Purdue spokesman, James Heins, adding that the bottle-tracking program had been used in 33 states.



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