Va. Beach investigates drug thefts from ambulances

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach EMS officials said Friday that someone stole powerful drugs from five medication boxes in ambulances at city fire stations this week.

On Monday evening, an ambulance crew at the General Booth Fire and EMS Station found a medication box in one of the ambulances that had been tampered with, according to Ed Brazle with the Virginia Beach Department of Medical Services. Medications were missing, including morphine, and when they checked other medication boxes, they found others that were missing medications at the General Booth location and at the Courthouse Station.

A police investigation was immediately initiated, medication kits were restocked and ambulances returned to service, Brazle said. But when the day crew arrived Tuesday morning, they found another box that had been tampered with at the General Booth station. That discovery initiated increased equipment checks, especially on ambulances not on duty.

Brazle said during a spot check Thursday, another box was found opened at the General Booth station and narcotics were missing.

Video: Ed Brazle talks about drug theft investigation

Brazle told WAVY News’ Lex Gray whoever is stealing the drugs has knowledge of city buildings and medication storage and could be a current or former staff member.

“We are not ruling out that possibility, and anyone who’s worked here, career or volunteer, either previous employee or current employee, is familiar with our procedures of how these medications are stored,” Brazle said.

The medication boxes are carried on all ambulances, and fire apparatus carry more than two dozen medications, including controlled substances, Brazle said.

He said any combination of drugs in the box could be deadly: “There are a variety of medications in the box. It’s not just the narcotics that could cause you to stop breathing or cause your heart to stop, and even the narcotics, the concentrations vary and it may not be something someone is used to if they’re buying it on the street.”

Brazle said residents don’t need to worry about drugs being missing or tampered with when they are needed in an emergency.

“When an ambulance crew finds a box open, it’s immediately taken out of service until it can be checked,” he said. “So there’s no chance that we’ll go out and give a tampered medication to someone.”

Brazle said the last time this kind of situation happened in Virginia Beach was in 2008, when police arrested an EMS volunteer. According to a representative from the Virginia Office of EMS, similar incidents were reported 137 times statewide in the past seven years, including 16 times in Hampton Roads.

The Virginia Beach Police Department is continuing to investigate the situation, and Brazle said fire stations have increased surveillance of ambulances.

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