Things That Matter

A Man In Need Of Support For His Sick Child Robbed A Pharmacy With A Written Note

Philadelphia police are currently searching for a man who allegedly robbed a Rite Aid pharmacy on January 3. While robberies are certainly commonplace in any urban setting, this particular instance stood out because the man in question quietly presented his demand note to the clerk without violence, aggression, or even showing a weapon. The note read in part: “Give me all the money. I’m sorry, I have a sick child. You have 15 seconds.”

In the video released by Philadelphia police, the suspect, wearing a gray hoodie and dark gloves, entered the Rite Aid store and took an item to the register. The store clerk can be seen scanning the item and putting it in a plastic bag. Then, according to a police statement on the screen before the video is played, the man handed his note to the employee. As the employee reads the message, the video shows the suspect reaching into his pocket, then leaning over the counter. The clerk then opened the register and placed cash into the same plastic bag, which the man concealed in his pockets before leaving the premises on foot. It is unknown how much money the suspect got away with, but the surveillance video does show the employee accessing the register twice.

While the police haven’t identified the suspect, they stated that the event on January 3 resembles an attempted robbery that occurred in the city a few months earlier.

According to CNN affiliate KYW, a man with a handgun intended to rob the 1 Stop Smoke Shop in July, citing his daughter’s kidney transplant as the reason for doing so. A clerk proceeded to give him several hundred dollars, but then the robber stopped, saying that the stolen money “probably wouldn’t help” his daughter’s operation. The suspect then left moments later without the cash. He did not harm any employees, though he had originally threatened to shoot if the clerk did not comply.

Despite the similarities, Philadelphia Police Officer Tanya Little said that the two incidents are not related, adding that the suspect from July’s attempted robbery was never identified. On the day of the attempted robbery, the suspect wore a long coat, sneakers, blue latex gloves, and a black-and-white face mask. He was described as a heavy-set man around 6 feet tall in his late 20s or early 30s. The recent Rite Aid robber has not yet been identified either, though he’s been described as a black man with facial hair between 30 and 40 years old, under 6 feet tall. In the video, he was also wearing glasses.

“We certainly understand that people have needs. That’s just not the way to go about fulfilling those needs,” Philadelphia Police Capain Sekou Kinebrew commented. He added, “There may be some specialized services for this individual and his family that he could be in need of, too. Unfortunately, the only way at this point he may be able to get them, is if he comes in and sees us.”

Although no one can know for sure whether either suspect was actually trying to support a sick child with stolen funds, there is evidence that shows that access to health care reduces crime.

The authors of a 2017 study titled “The effect of Medicaid expansion on crime reduction: Evidence from HIFA-waiver Expansions” found that when Medicaid was expanded, rates of aggravated assault, robbery, and larceny theft fell from 2001-2008. Based on their research, the authors assert that this effect was fueled by not only increasing access to substance abuse treatment, but by increasing access to mental health care and ultimately reducing financial strain spurred by excessive healthcare costs. Over the course of those seven years, the authors estimate that a ten percent increase in such treatment (at an annual cost of $1.6 billion) yielded an annual benefit of $2.9 to 5.1 billion in avoided crime, suggesting that making resources like Medicaid more accessible might serve as an effective way to prevent crime in the future—regardless of the reason for committing it.

Another 2017 study examined the effects of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act between 2010 and 2015. Author Jacob Vogler finds that over the course of these five years, violent crime was reduced by 5.8% and property crime dropped by 3%. He estimates that the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansions resulted in a $13.6 billion savings due to overall crime reduction, and he asserts over and over again that healthcare and criminal behavior share a causal relationship. While there are certainly alternatives to robbing stores, people often commit crimes out of desperation, and as these studies indicate, it would probably be a good idea to examine the causes of this desperation as a preventative measure toward crime reduction in the future.

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