Blue Line

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

April 10, 2024  By Toronto Police Service

Apr. 10, 2024, Toronto, Ont. – The Toronto Police Service (TPS) alongside the Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP) and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) have announced that all pharmacies in Toronto and across Ontario are reporting 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.

“A year ago, the Hold Up Squad was speaking publicly about the alarming increase in pharmacy robberies in Toronto,” said Inspector Joseph Matys of the TPS Hold Up Squad. “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.”

Beginning in 2022, the TPS Hold Up Squad, in conjunction with the TPS Community Partnership and Engagement Unit, began collaborating with local pharmacies and external partner agencies like the Ontario College of Pharmacists and the Ontario Pharmacists Association to spread awareness and safety tips, and to reduce incidents of robberies and victimization. Tips included recommending that pharmacies invest in good surveillance cameras, panic alarms, and of course, time-delayed safes—and making sure those safes remain locked at all times. Pharmacy robberies in Toronto began to drop sharply in 2023 and have decreased to a total of 10 pharmacy robberies so far in 2024 versus 60 at this time last year.

All 4,900+ pharmacies in Ontario have now reported the use of time-delayed safes.


“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 were 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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

“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,” said Deputy Chief Mark Dapat, Peel Regional Police, Co-Chair, Community Safety and Crime Prevention Committee, OACP.

Print this page


Stories continue below