Time-delayed safes for securing narcotics now fully implemented in all Ontario community pharmacies

Posted:Apr 10th, 2024
Read Time: 3 Min Read
Sending a strong signal to criminals, time-delayed safes are a proven way to deter crime and reduce pharmacy robberies

Toronto, ON – April 10, 2024The Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP), alongside the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP), is pleased to announce that all 4,900+ pharmacies in Ontario have now reported the use of time-delayed safes for securing narcotics such as oxycodone, morphine, and codeine. This marks a significant milestone in helping to curb the risk of pharmacy robberies throughout Ontario.

“This is a critical milestone that should serve as a signal to all would-be thieves that pharmacies are no longer an easy target to steal narcotics and that pharmacies are working closer than ever with local law enforcement to help deter pharmacy robberies,” said James Morrison, OCP Board Chair. “In working with law enforcement, we’ve learned that perpetrators who commit pharmacy robberies rely on getting in and out of a pharmacy quickly. The evidence is clear. When criminals know that narcotics are secured in a time-delayed safe, it serves as a strong deterrent.”

The OCP Board carefully looked at the data from other provinces and determined that the benefits of both time-delayed safes and the associated signage was the most effective deterrent to reduce pharmacy robberies and help protect not only pharmacy staff, but the patients and communities they serve. The province-wide use of time-delayed safes is strongly supported by the OACP, local police departments, the Ontario Pharmacists Association, and various corporate and independent pharmacy partners.

“We are immensely thankful to our policing partners for their steadfast support and dedication to this initiative and the pharmacy profession for working with us to reach this important milestone,” added Mr. Morrison.

  • Data from other jurisdictions shows that implementing and mandating the use of time-delayed safes and visible signage reduces robberies.
  • Following the July 1, 2022, implementation of a similar mandate in Alberta, by January 2023, the City of Edmonton reported zero pharmacy robberies, while the City of Calgary saw an 80 per cent decrease.[1]
  • In 2015, the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia mandated the installation of time-delayed safes, contributing to a significant drop in pharmacy robberies, from 36 in 2013/2014 down to just two by 2016/2017.[2]
  • Saskatchewan and Manitoba have also recently implemented a time-delayed safes mandate for pharmacies across their provinces.
  • A time-delayed safe has an electronic timer that prevents access until a pre-set period of time has elapsed after the correct combination has been entered. The use of override codes, keys, or other methods to bypass the time delay is prohibited under this mandate.
  • The mandate was announced in March 2023 and applies to all 4,900+ community pharmacies in Ontario.
  • In addition to the installation of the time-delayed safes, community pharmacies are also required to post approved signage indicating their use at each public entrance and the pharmacy counter.

Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police:

“The theft of narcotics from pharmacies can pose a serious threat to community safety and place pharmacy workers, patients, and the public at risk. Criminals have relied on getting in-and-out of pharmacies quickly when they commit the theft of narcotics. That’s why police services support the Ontario College of Pharmacists’ initiative to mandate time-delayed safes in pharmacies. Efforts to make such crimes more difficult to accomplish and to prevent them from happening are a public safety significant advancement. Mandating these safes acts as a robbery deterrent, improves overall safety, and prevents stolen narcotics from fuelling Ontario’s opioid crisis.”

– Deputy Chief Mark Dapat, Peel Regional Police, Co-Chair, Community Safety and Crime Prevention Committee

Ontario Pharmacists Association:

“Pharmacy professionals play a critical role in providing accessible and timely care to patients across Ontario and their safety and well-being is of utmost importance. The use of time-delayed safes to keep our pharmacy teams and the communities they serve safe based on the evidence that they will prevent pharmacy robberies from happening is a welcome initiative. The Ontario Pharmacists Association is proud to represent and support pharmacy professionals in their daily practice and today’s announcement is an important step to protecting pharmacy professionals and their ability to provide quality care to patients”

– Justin Bates, CEO, Ontario Pharmacists Association

Toronto Police Service:

“A year ago, the Hold Up Squad was speaking publicly about the alarming increase in pharmacy robberies in Toronto. After working collaboratively with pharmacies across Toronto and with the Ontario College of Pharmacists, the introduction of time-delayed safes has resulted in an 82 per cent decrease in pharmacy robberies so far in 2024 compared to the same time last year. This success speaks to the impact of time-delayed safes, but also demonstrates the importance of collaboration among stakeholders to address issues that impact the safety and well-being of our communities.”  

– Inspector Joesph Matys, Toronto Police Service Hold Up Squad


  1. Time-delayed safes are working – Alberta College of Pharmacy (abpharmacy.ca)
  2. Time-delay safes linked to steep drop in robberies from B.C. pharmacies | CBC News