Cincinnati Pharmaceutical Crime Unit Keeps Busy

(CINCINNATI) -- The Drug Enforcement Agency calls it our nation's hidden drug danger. Last year prescription drugs were abused at a rate second only to cocaine. Locally the police officers fighting this drug battle say they're overwhelmed and you should be concerned.

FOX19's Chris Shaw reports.

They don't get the bright lights. The special vice squads. In fact, they're not even a "they".

One person comprises the entire Cincinnati Police Pharmaceutical Crime Section.

"This is a very, very unique kind of crime." And Kelly Raker has a unique kind of job. She tracks down people who con local pharmacies to get drugs.

"This effects all of us, because we all ultimately pay more for everything because of these people who are abusing the system."

Generally Raker tracks down these types of criminals. People who get a real prescription then alter it. People who claim to work for a doctor's office and call in fake prescriptions. And people who illegally get the same type of medication from several different doctors.

The subtlety of the crime, Raker says, makes it tough to investigate.

"If somebody pulled out a line of crack cocaine and snorted it in front of you, you would be appalled. And shocked, etcetera. But when somebody pulls out a pill from a bottle and takes it, you think nothing of it."

But you should.

Raker says the most commonly abused drugs are pain medications like Oxycontin and Morphine And the people abusing them come from every racial and social background.

"These are the people that are potentially are driving the bus your child is on, driving in the vehicle next to you, and they're abusing the drugs. And they're just as strong as if the person lit up a crack pipe, or snorted a line of cocaine, or shot up heroin. "

"I don't think the penalties are stiff enough."  Pharmacists like Mimi Hart are the first line of defense in this crime. [

They're trained to spot fake prescriptions and have the right to deny drugs to anyone.  But with more people abusing...and becoming desperate for the drugs denying them can be dangerous.

"You wonder what the repercussions are going to be. And if somebody's coming back with another way to get it."

And that only adds to her frustration that there aren't more investigators like Raker.  At one time the city had 6 full time employees dealing only with pharmacy crimes but five of those officers were moved to other departments like the vortex unit to concentrate on violent crime. Leaving only raker.

"But the demand has not gone away. You field 25 calls a day and 24 are pharmacutical...that demand is still there."

And Raker admits that demand is more than one officer can get to.