As a deadly attempted robbery took place in an East Harlem pharmacy on Thursday, State Senator Jeff Klein was less than three miles south, pushing for harsher penalties for pharmacy robbery and prescription drug theft.
Standing in front of an Upper East Side pharmacy, Klein cited new reports from the DEA showing an increase in such robberies.
In New York State, more than 200 people were arrested last year for their role in prescription drugs being sold on the black market, up from less than 60 arrests in 2009.
Klein says the state is facing an epidemic.
"That's become even more serious than the heroin epidemic of the '70s," said Klein. "So I think we need to do something. And we need to protect these individuals, our local pharmacists, who are on the front line every day, trying to do their job."
"By making the penalties harsher for those who perpetrate crimes like this, we hopefully will see a reduction in these problems," said President Ray Macioci of the New York Pharmacists Society.
Under the proposed legislation, anyone convicted of breaking into a pharmacy or stealing prescription drugs worth more than $50,000 could spend up to 25 years in prison.