Drug Enforcement Agency officials announced on Friday, additional federal agents being dispatched to Baltimore to investigate a massive prescription drug theft from 27 pharmacies and clinics during the massive rioting following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. Federal officials report that 175,000 doses of narcotics went missing and the missing drugs may be a trigger for the recent spike in violence. Last month, Baltimore reported 43 murders in May, making it one of the most violent months in the city’s history. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesperson Todd Edwards said Friday that 10 additional agents are being deployed from Washington to aid in the investigation.
DEA officials say that half of the drug entities have filed loss reports and are expecting drug losses would rise. Baltimore pharmacies and clinics were looted in the riots following the death of Freddie Gray. DEA officials also released photographs of nine people suspected of looting the missing drugs. Pharmacy and law enforcement officials said they have seen no evidence that personal information found on stolen prescriptions has been used for fraud. Nevertheless, Rite Aid hired Kroll, a risk management firm, to alert impacted customers via a letter of notification and share with them the proactive measures it has taken to guard against identity theft. DEA Baltimore Special Agent Gary Tuggle who said they can directly attribute these drugs to turf wars and individual groups, gangs and drug traffickers who are fighting for territory.
“The uptick we are seeing, quite honestly, is the fact that they have space now and they are out and they’ve got the ability to deal drugs, and some feel they can deal with impunity,” Tuggle told CNN affiliate WBAL. Tuggle said the looters specifically went after controlled narcotics like Vicodin, oxycodone and Percocet that drug stores keep on hand to serve a consumer market. The DEA reports one milligram tablet of OxyContin sells for $30 on the street.
As a result of the thefts, residents are believing that the police are slower in response times. Maryland State Senator Catherine Pugh fought back saying “We need them to do their job, so whatever that takes to get them moving” including bringing in the U.S. Department of Justice to help them learn how to better police “that’s what needs to take place.” While the investigation continues, thieves can use the information on labels to bill medical care to the original customer’s insurance, refill the prescription for themselves or even steal the identities with the help of other data. “There’s enough narcotics on the streets of Baltimore to keep it intoxicated for a year,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said Wednesday. “That amount of drugs has thrown off the balance on the streets of Baltimore.” Federal laws ensure pharmacies notify customers of possible breaches of data within 60 days.