INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A teen that police said was caught in the act of robbing a pharmacy early Saturday morning on the northwest side marks another incident of a crime that's historically plagued the state.
Investigators said Alpha Diallo, 18, jumped the counter of a CVS pharmacy in the 5600 block of Georgetown Rd. and demanded pain medications. Police said the suspect was putting drugs in his pockets when police entered and arrested him.
The robbery isn't isolated.
"It continues to happen because we have an epidemic of large proportions in the Midwest," State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Dist. 31) said.
Merritt said pharmacy robberies are tied to the opioid epidemic.
"We have 300,000 addicts in the state and that is quite an audience, if you will," he said.
Now lawmakers are working to curb that by getting to the root of the problem. One proposed measure would limit the amount of opiates a doctor can prescribe to certain patients and another could impose harsher penalties for teens caught robbing pharmacies.
The payoff of past efforts:
"IMPD in Indianapolis has done a real good job to cut down on the pharmacy robberies, the pharmacies have played a large role," Merritt said.
According to federal officials, Indiana saw 168 reported pharmacy robberies in 2015 and that number cut more than half last year.
CVS released a statement:
"These incidents are a challenge to all pharmacies and our priority remains the safety of our employees and customers. We regularly review our security policies to ensure effectiveness, but we don't comment on specific policies because we don't want to undermine them."
The company also said time delay safes for controlled substances it implemented in all of its pharmacies in Indianapolis about 2 years ago have helped to significantly reduce the number of robberies.
"The bottom line is we need to put a tourniquet on the need and the want and the sale of those pills," Merritt said.
Police said Diallo is facing a preliminary charge of robbery.