Thieves target accident victim's family in ICU waiting room

Thieves get away with valuables

It seems no place is off limits for thieves. A hospital waiting room might be the last place you'd expect to get ripped off, but one family warns of having a false sense of security. The Georgia family shared their story with the ABC 33/40 i-Team in hopes of preventing others from falling victim and spurring tighter security.

Mark and Marie Toler say when your child is fighting for his life, you shouldn't have to worry about personal items being stolen. Their son 22 year old son Josh was in a horrible ATV accident last November. He was sent to UAB Hospital's Intensive Care Unit where he spent weeks in critical condition. The family says the medical care was excellent, but the lack of security made them an easy target.

"Somebody needs to be accountable," says Mark Toler. Two of the family's cellphones and a billfold were stolen in the overnight hours while the family dozed on two nights in the ICU's 9th floor waiting room. They filed police reports, but no arrests were made.

"My daughter traced her's (cellphone) four blocks away, then it shut off," says Marie Toler. The phones were tucked away out of sight and the billfold was snatched right out of her other son's pants pocket as he napped.

"There's cameras up there; don't they work?" asks a frustrated Mark Toler. They put the value of their loss at $2,000. The family says employees have complained to the administration as have other patients. During their ordeal, another visitor to the ICU waiting room said her purse hidden under blankets was stolen.

They say they rarely saw security even at night. They did on a few occasions see homeless people coming up on the ICU floor with sleeping bags looking for vacant rooms to sleep in and called security. They do not believe the homeless were involved in the thefts, but were concerned people were walking in and out so freely.

In bigger cities you'll find hospitals with more locked doors and access codes required. Most local facilities have open door policies where visitors can come and go. The exceptions are often maternity wards and emergency rooms.

UAB declined our request for an on-camera interview. Information was sent via email from UAB Police Chief Anthony Purcell. He says guests are encouraged to secure valuables and if they "see something, say something." The hospital has 24/7 video surveillance and a police presence.

The North Pavilion averages roughly six incidents of property theft a month. This year waiting rooms are set for renovations and after hours use will be consolidated.

"If you don't address crime, people will come back with the message this is an easy target," advises Connie Packard of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety. The group helps set guidelines and share information on best security practices. National surveys find security a growing concern for hospitals especially with the opiod crisis and behavioral issues they face.

The Tolers tell us Josh's recovery is progressing. He has been moved to a rehabilitation facility in Georgia.

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