AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Crime rates are up in Maine for the past year, and the state's top law enforcement people blame part of it on prescription drug abuse.
The most noticeable effect, they say: pharmacy robberies. They have become what Maine Public Safety Commissioner John Morris called "epidemic."
A CVS pharmacy in Augusta was robbed two nights ago, and three people were later arrested in connection with that crime. A second CVS store in the city was robbed last month.
Commissioner Morris says 24 pharmacies were robbed last year for prescription painkillers, and from January to mid-June this year there have been 23 pharmacy robberies. Morris says there is also a deadly statistic: for the third year in a row, he says, more people died in Maine from drug overdoes than died in car accidents.
Morris says prescription drug addiction is also driving other robberies and burglaries as people hunt for money to get high.
Can they do anything to help the problem? Morris and Attorney General William Schneider say they're both working on ways to address prescription drug addiction and related crime.
Schneider is heading up a special task force, appointed by the Governor, which has identified several strategies to reduce demand for the painkillers, and help prevent doctors from prescribing them to people with abuse problems. Morris, meanwhile, is tackling the pharmacy issue. He has invited the heads of the major pharmacy chains to come to Maine in July to discuss ways to combat the robbery epidemic.