June 27, 1973: Police link robberies at gas stations to heroin shortage
A rash of violent armed robberies at gas stations was linked to a shortage of heroin in Edmonton by the city police robbery detail.
Five of the 13 armed robberies of gas stations since the beginning of the year had occurred in June, Staff Sgt. Merv Robinson, the officer in charge of robbery detail, told the Journal.
“The key to the whole thing is probably the shortage of heroin. With the price of heroin being up to $50 and $75 a cap, these guys will do anything to get the money.”
There had been a total of 59 robberies so far that year, compared with a total of 89 for the whole of 1972.
“We’ve caught addicts who were responsible for service station robberies. There’s no doubt in my mind that the shortage is a contributing factor in the holdups,” Robinson said.
City police and RCMP drug squad officers said there had a been a shortage of the drug in Edmonton for about two months, partially due to enforcement measures in Vancouver which had left that city with only enough heroin to supply a quarter of the addicts living there.
“One answer to the problem would be the exact-change service stations that they’re trying in the U.S. and Vancouver. That way there’s no money at the station to be taken. I’m against guns behind the counter, and I don’t really know if just having a dog or two people working at the gas station would make a difference,” Robinson said.
Dennis Marryat of Wetaskiwin, president of the Automotive Retailers’ Association in Alberta, said the holdup situation was deteriorating so rapidly that “I can foresee a time when you won’t find any change in a gas station after 7 p.m.”
He said he supported the exact change idea whereby service stations do not give change after seven p.m. Money put into the pumps for gas drops into an underground safe, to which only the station manager has a key.
“I don’t think it would be a great hardship for customers. After all, you have it on the buses in Edmonton now.” Marryat said.
“I’m just not much for handguns for attendants, it just wouldn’t be a good idea. I certainly wouldn’t have them in my station.”