Cops in New York City will soon begin outfitting dummy bottles of the powerful painkiller Oxycontin with GPS tracking devices in an effort to crack down on violent drugstore robberies and a growing illicit trade.
So-called "bait bottles" that look like the addictive prescription drug but are really filled with a harmless placebo and will be outfitted with a tiny tracking device, which police hope will lead them to black market dealers.
"In the event of a robbery or theft, we'll be able to track the bottle, which may lead us to stash locations across the city,'' NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said Tuesday at a conference in California.
Oxycontin, the brand name for the painkiller oxycodone, is known as "hillbilly heroin" because of its traditional abuse in rural areas. However, the drug's addictive properties have made it increasingly popular in big cities like New York, leading to a series of armed robberies at pharmacies.
In April, police shot and killed an armed man after he robbed a drugstore of Oxycontin and Percocet in the East Harlem section of Manhattan.
In 2011, a retired ATF agent was killed in a shootout at a Long Island drug store when he stumbled upon an armed robber demanding Oxycontin. Cops later killed the suspect as they attempted to apprehend him.
Kelly said even the police were not immune from the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
"One of our own retired police officers who became addicted to the pills after incurring an injury on the job began robbing drug stores at gunpoint," Kelly said.
The tracking program comes on the heels of a separate initiative launched last week by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that would limit the amount of painkillers prescribed at city emergency rooms.
Kelly said the city's "Operation Safety Cap" will also build a database of the 6,000 pharmacies in the city to better track the drugs and include a program in which police warn high school students of the dangers of prescription drug abuse.