PORT JEFFERSON STATION, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It was a harrowing early morning for employees in a suburban drug store.
Three thugs tied them up, put guns to their heads and escaped with prescription pills and cash.
Is there a link to similar robberies in Nassau County and Queens?
Loyal drug store patrons rushed to check on their neighborhood pharmacist and clerks on Monday, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.
“Hope they catch them soon,” one person said.
“It’s horrible to have these people tied,” another said.
The men, armed with guns and wearing ski masks, entered the CVS in Port Jefferson Station just after 3:30 a.m., police said, and went straight for the narcotics. A gun was put to the head of each of the employees and each was restrained with duct tape.
CVS employees told McLogan they were instructed not to discuss the incident.
The thieves escaped on the Long Island Expressway. They were followed by Suffolk County police to the border where Nassau cops took over. The vehicle apparently disappeared in Queens, McLogan reported.
Law enforcement is now investigating similar drug stores robberies in Glen Cove, Valley Stream and Bethpage, and the NYPD reports drug store robberies in Queens Village and Ozone Park remain unsolved.
“Law enforcement can only do so much. Everybody has to join in and help,” drug store patron Nick Balducci said.
Customers are wondering if the suspects are addicts or peddling the stolen opioids on the black market — desperate people doing desperate things.
“There was that horrible drug store robbery in Medford a few years ago. That was my pharmacy. Yes, drugs, people are desperate,” patron Marian Stern said.
David Laffer murdered four in the Medford pharmacy massacre on Father’s Day in 2011. His wife, Melinda Brady, was the getaway driver.
Steven Chassman of the Long Island Council on Drug Dependency said this is a cry for accessing treatment on demand.
“These are the far-reaching elements of a national public health crisis, where violence plays into it, where desperation and innocent people get harmed,” Chassman said.
“I think the government, too, should do more. When you hear they cut the budget for this, that and the other thing. Drugs are horrible. Three of my sons’s friends died this past year, drug overdoses,” drug store patron Mary Claesen said.
Shoppers said they have compassion for addicts, but not for armed robbers and want them caught soon.
No one has been hurt in any of the robberies. Amphetamines, Oxycodone and Percocet were among the drugs stolen.
Anyone with any information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). You can also submit a tip via the Crime Stoppers website or by texting a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. You can also call the Suffolk County Police Major Case Unit at 631-852-8555 or Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.
All calls are confidential.