AUGUSTA — The Capitol Street CVS pharmacy was robbed of drugs for the second time in as many weeks and for the third time this year Wednesday afternoon and police were on the hunt for the man who did it.

It was also the second time in three days a city drug store had been robbed and the robber fled on foot, evading responding police officers.

There have been nine pharmacy robberies in the city this year, more than any city in the state, police said.

Statewide, pharmacy robberies are more than double last year’s total.

“There is no place that is going to be exempt,” Augusta Police Lt. Christopher Massey said late Wednesday. “It’s all time, any place, when the person desires to get that medication. Pain medication is a real challenge for law enforcement.”

None of the customers and store employees at the CVS were hurt during the Wednesday robbery, in which a man handed an employee a threatening note demanding prescription medication, according to Massey. It was reported shortly after 3 p.m.

Police continued Wednesday night to search for the robber, who was described as a skinny man, about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, wearing tan khaki pants, white sneakers, black gloves, a dark sweatshirt with a hood and a dark ski-type mask.

At least one store employee followed the robber out of the store north toward Western Avenue. Massey said the robber never claimed to have a weapon and none was shown before he fled out the door with an undisclosed number of pills.

More than 20 Augusta and Maine State Police officers fanned out in search of the robber with the aid of a tracking dog. The robber’s scent was picked up by the dog, Massey said, and police recovered items believed to have been tossed aside by the robber during his escape.

Police focused much of their attention on yards and buildings in the neighborhoods directly behind the store, including Western Avenue Place and Hillcrest and Walker streets.

Officers on Sewall Street questioned a man matching the robber’s description, but determined he was not the robber, Massey said.

Initial reports from witnesses suggested the robber got into a large, dark-colored sport utility vehicle just off Western Avenue, but police determined the man fled on foot, not in a vehicle, toward Western Avenue.

Customers continued to pull into the store’s parking lot late in the afternoon despite the presence of several police cruisers. An officer approached each vehicle as it parked to tell drivers that the store was closed.

The same store has been robbed three times since January.

The first occurred June 18. The robber wore dark clothing, a wig, a fake beard and sunglasses. A state police dog tried to track the robber, with no success. Two Augusta men were subsequently charged over the next few days in connection with the robbery.

The Capitol Street CVS was robbed again Nov. 17 by a man who reportedly threatened a pharmacy employee before fleeing on foot with oxycodone pills.

Augusta and Maine State Police and a police dog searched the surrounding area looking for a man described as 25 to 35 years old, 130-165 pounds, with a short scruffy beard, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark pants as well as dark face paint, a black hat and camouflage gloves. No one has been charged in connection with that robbery.

Wednesday’s robbery occurred just more than 48 hours after a hold-up the Walmart pharmacy on Civic Center Drive.

A man dressed in blue wearing an FBI baseball hat handed an employee a note at about 1 p.m. suggesting he had a weapon. He fled with an undisclosed number of oxycodone pills. The man — who witnesses said was clean shaven and had an acne-scarred face and yellow teeth — was last scene by a surveillance camera running toward Civic Center Drive. He was not found.

“It’s unknown if the last three robberies are connected, but there are similarities,” Massey said.

This year 53 pharmacies have been robbed across the state. A then-record 24 were tallied last year. That was up slightly from 21 in 2010. In at least one of those robberies — a September hold-up in Pittsfield — the pharmacist refused to hand over the pills.

Massey said among other issues, the increase in robberies increase the likelihood of someone getting hurt.

“It’s always a concern people will become more complacent, or desensitized, and challenge the robber, which would increase the possibility of violence,” Massey said.

Police asked anyone with information about any of the unsolved Augusta pharmacy robberies to call police at 626-2370.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
ccrosby@centralmaine.com