A recent break-in at the Los Banos Drug Co. escalated into a high-speed chase on Interstate 5 and was the latest in a troubling trend of recent burglaries in the Valley targeting pharmaceuticals.
Los Banos police responded to the drug store on J Street at 3:09 a.m. Friday. Officers were on scene less than a minute later and spotted three suspected thieves, described by officers as “Hispanic males,” flee the scene in a light-colored sedan, Cmdr. Ray Reyna said.
A chase ensued from J to Fourth Street to Pacheco Boulevard and wound up with officers chasing the suspects north on Interstate 5 at speeds of more than 100 mph, Reyna said.
Reyna said officers elected to end the risky pursuit out of concern for the public’s safety.
It remained unclear Wednesday exactly what the thieves got away with during the break-in, but Reyna said it was at least “thousands in prescription medication.”
The theft was the latest in a growing number of break-ins, burglaries and robberies at pharmacies throughout the Valley.
Just last week, two Walgreens stores were robbed minutes apart in Merced by men who fled on foot and remain at large. Other communities have reported major spikes in brazen prescription drug thefts, including Fresno, Modesto and Visalia, among others.
Fresno police have investigated dozens of similar burglaries since August. Investigators in Fresno have said many of the thefts have a similar pattern with two to three men involved in either breaking in when stores are closed or coordinating a burglary to get past employees and security guards if a store is open.
Thieves have been targeting a variety of painkillers and other prescription drugs, most notably codeine, hydrocodone and promethazine, officials have said.
Los Banos police said the Oct. 27 incident was not the first time the drug store on J Street has been targeted. Investigators are working with neighboring agencies to determine whether the same people may be involved in a large number of the thefts in the Valley. Reyna also said, however, it’s also possible the thefts are independent and may be part of a trend that extends beyond the Valley.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact Los Banos Police Detective Jairo Acosta at 209-827-7070, ex. 114. Tips are confidential and callers may remain anonymous.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482