Knoxville (WVLT) - The number of people taking prescription painkillers has climbed dramatically over the past 10 years, that's people taking them legally, and illegally.
As Volunteer TV's Jessa Goddard reports, an increasing number of people are becoming addicted, and they're becoming increasingly desperate.
Knoxville Police say a robbery in the parking lot of Food City Bearden, you saw only on WVLT Friday, is indicative of the problem.
Someone desperate for painkillers, willing to assault an unsuspecting woman to get them.
The crime, carried out in broad daylight.
Knoxville Police say 52-year-old Nicki Shackelford had just picked up some prescriptions from the Food City Pharmacy and was walking from the store to her car, when 34-year-old John Nicely grabbed her, maced her, and took off with her prescription medications.
KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk says it's an increasingly common, increasingly violent crime. "That's usually what drives this type of thing is the need for drugs. So, they can turn violent if they get very desperate, they can take extreme measures to try to fill their need."
Many of the customers at Long's Drug Store are senior citizens.
"We've been here a long time, and we know a lot of the people who come in, and we know their habits, and we also know the people who sometimes accompany them if they're older,” says Hank Peck, the pharmacist at Long’s Drug Store.
And, thanks to the large windows, by design, Long’s workers also know when someone is in the parking lot who shouldn't be.
"They pay attention to the people who drive up, more so than a lot of people might think, and so we do get a good visual of everyone,” says Peck.
But Knoxville Police say there are some things you can do to make yourself a less likely target.
First and most important: "You want to be aware of your surroundings,” DeBusk says. “You don't want to look down as you're walking to your car, you want to make eye contact, because that's the last thing that a criminal wants to do if for you to make eye contact with them, because you can describe them."
Walk with someone you know, or ask a store employee to walk with you.
Have your keys ready, and lock your doors as soon as you get into your car.
Don't hold prescription medications out where someone can easily see them and take them.
And only tell trusted family members and friends what medications you take.
Also, Knoxville Police say, if someone tries to steal your prescription medications, don't try to fight back.
They say people willing to steal your pills are probably desperate, and likely dangerous.
Your medications can be replaced, they're not worth risking your safety.