News / Halifax

Halifax pharmacist fears future crimes after knifepoint robbery

Peter Jorna says an employee at his Coburg Road location had a knife held to her throat before drugs and money were taken.

Pharmacist and owner of Guardian Pharmacy, Peter Jorna, had one of his locations robbed by a suspect with a knife.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Pharmacist and owner of Guardian Pharmacy, Peter Jorna, had one of his locations robbed by a suspect with a knife.

A Halifax pharmacist whose store was robbed at knifepoint Monday is enhancing security and expressing concerns that pharmacy robberies may become more commonplace.

On Monday afternoon, Peter Jorna was returning from walking his dogs and getting ready to start a 4:30 p.m. shift at the Guardian Pharmacy he owns on Coburg Road. He saw a man he described as “shady” coming out of the store.

When a few $20 bills fell out of the man’s pocket, another passerby picked them up and handed them to the man, who quickly left.

“He actually dropped my money, and then I went inside and that’s when I found out that it had all happened. It was pretty terrible,” Jorna said of the armed robbery.

“A student (employee is) the one who bore the brunt of it. She was just coming in around the corner and the guy just kind of pushed her into the dispensary and put his arm around her neck and put a knife to her throat.”

Jorna said pharmacists have always had to deal with the threat of robberies, but he expects them to increase.

“The province just went ahead with the drug information database so every prescription that gets filled in Nova Scotia it goes on a database and it flags them,” he said.

“Now when someone fills a prescription if they got one filled at another pharmacy in recent history then it’s going to come up. We get flagged on that.”

He believes that initiative, coupled with doctors being more cautious when prescribing, will cut down on the supply of drugs making their way onto the streets.  

“I believe the majority of the drug problem in Nova Scotia currently is prescription drugs and that’s how they get them,” he said.

“The supply is going to dry up so the only other way to get drugs is…illegal drugs like heroin, so you’ll probably end up seeing more of that coming into the province, or through robbing pharmacies.”

Among his new enhanced security measures, Jorna is installing panic buttons. Although the pharmacy closes at 9 p.m., the store remains open until midnight. He said no one will work alone.

"I wasn’t nervous until (Monday) and now I have a whole new set of stress that I have to think about," he said.

In addition to his Coburg Road location, Jorna also owns a Guardian pharmacy on Gottingen Street. He said both have very good camera systems in place.

“I don’t really care about the money, I don’t care about the drugs but it just didn’t really hit me until right now,” Jorna said, choking up.

“It’s the impact on my employees. They are people I care about and it’s going to have a profound impact on the poor university student and the other pharmacist who was working there. It’s such a terrible thing to do to someone.”

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