REVEALED: Huge extent of crime at South Yorkshire pharmacies, including arson and robberies

Balby Late Night Pharmacy in Doncaster, which was robbed earlier this month
Balby Late Night Pharmacy in Doncaster, which was robbed earlier this month
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Nearly 1,200 crimes were recorded at pharmacies across South Yorkshire last year, 'concerning' new figures show.

The vast majority of those 1,170 offences were shoplifting, accounting for 1,030 incidents, but there were 17 violent crimes, including one confirmed case of arson, and 43 burglaries or robberies.

McGills pharmacy in Mexborough is among those to have been targeted by armed robbers

McGills pharmacy in Mexborough is among those to have been targeted by armed robbers

In one of those crimes, the perpertrator is recorded as using 'boots or feet' to 'kick, knee and stomp' on a victim.

Weapons wielded at pharmacies across the region included a hypodermic needle or syringe, a 'garden implement', a can and a bottle.

The statistics were released days after a robbery at Balby Late Night Pharmacy on Greenfield Lane, in Doncaster, in which £85 was taken from the till.

South Yorkshire Police said a 39-year-old woman was detained by officers having fled the pharmacy, with staff giving chase. She was arrested at the scene and has been released on bail.

The crime figures were uncovered by Chemist+Druggist (C+D) magazine, which submitted Freedom of Information requests to forces across the country in response to what it said was an increasing number of crimes its readers had been subjected to.

Its findings have prompted an inquiry by the National Pharmacy Association, which represents the profession. It is 'increasingly concerned' about the levels of crime faced by pharmacists and their staff and plans to raise the matter with pharmacy minister Steve Brine.

Roger Appleyard is a director at McGills Pharmacy, which has 11 branches across Doncaster and Rotherham.

He said one of those 11 pharmacies would be targeted by shoplifters most months and there was generally one crime a year across the firm's estate where staffs' personal safety was threatened.

In 2013, The Star reported how a robber armed with a screwdriver held up one of its stores in Mexborough, threatening an employee before making off with cash.

Mr Appleyard said: "I don't think there's been an increase in crime at pharmacies. There will always be problems because you will always have patients with substance abuse issues and mental health problems.

"With the vast majority of those patients if you treat them as you would any other patient, which we always do, they are quite polite and cause no problems."

Mr Appleyard revealed staff had in the past been threatened with needles, which he said was 'quite scary'. As a result, all employees are given injections to protect them against such an attack.

He added that all the firm's pharmacies are fitted with panic alarms, and those opening late at night have a door lock system so staff can see customers before letting them in.

In total, 291 violent crimes were recorded during 2016 by the 35 out of 45 police forces across the UK which responded to C+D's FOI request.

Greater Manchester had the country's highest number of burglaries and robberies at pharmacies, out of those forces to respond, with a total of 47.

NPA chairman Ian Strachan said: "The nature of the pharmacy business, coupled with its prominent but very necessary position on our high streets, means it can often be an attractive target for criminals."

TOP TIPS TO PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS FROM CRIME

* Make sure your CCTV system is in working order and clearly signposted as a deterrent

* Keep doors, gates and fences well maintained and, where appropriate, locked

* Use alarm systems, including panic alarms which can be used to secretly summon police. Make it clear you have these in place, to deter thieves

* Keep high-value items away from doorways and windows, and consider marking your property to make it harder to sell on

* Keep computers and other electronic equipment locked away to keep them safe

* Make sure your staff are trained to spot criminal behaviour and know what steps to take if your business is targeted

* If your premises has a yard or car-park make sure its boundaries are secure and not overgrown, so criminals have nowhere to hide

* Keep the amount of cash and other valuables on the premises to a minimum. Use a safe to keep down the amount of cash in tills

* Review your banking and accounts procedures to reduce the risk of being a victim of fraud. Also alter the times and days you visit the bank

* Design your business to make it less attractive to thieves, for example so they can't keep all staff in their line of sight or back out without obstruction

* For more crime prevention advice, visit the South Yorkshire Police website.