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Busting baby snatchers.

Baby Kerri had only been alive two days before she became the most famous baby in California. Still in the hospital in Berkeley where she was born, the infant was in the arms of her 16-year-old mother while the mother was being counseled by a woman who claimed she was from the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC). The same counselor returned the next day; she said she needed to take the baby for some tests. Baby Kerri left the room in the arms of her kidnapper and hasn't been seen since.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), of the 113 infants abducted in the United States between 1983 and 1991, 73 were taken from hospitals. Hospital security managers, with help from alert nurses and parents, may be able to prevent such tragedies.

In March 1991 NCMEC suggested the following strategies (The following copyrighted material is reprinted with permission from NCMEC, Arlington, VA. All rights reserved.):

* Take color photographs of all infants at birth or admission. These photos should include a close-up of the face, taken straight on, and any special identification marks.

* Take footprints of each infant at birth or admission.

* Keep a full written description of each infant with his or her photograph and other identification material. These can be kept with the infant's medical records.

* Require all hospital staff members who come in contact with infants to wear visible photo identification and clothing marked with the hospital name.

* Require that infants be visually supervised at all times by mothers or nurses.

* Restrict the number of visitors to a mother's room to two, in addition to the father.

* Ask nurses or security officers to inspect large packages, such as book bags, gym bags, and large cardboard boxes, being carried off the maternity ward.

* Educate the nursing managers and staff that a disturbance in another part of the hospital may be a distraction created to make the abduction easier. Stress that supervision of infants during periods of high activity or confusing situations is essential.

* Install electronic surveillance detection systems. The sensors can be placed on the infant or in the infant's diaper.

Nurses, who act as an additional parent during the infant's stay at a hospital, make an outstanding guard force. Security managers in cooperation with nursing management should alert the nursing staff to the kinds of unusual behavior they should be aware of.

Nurses must be taught to notice individuals who continually visit the maternity area and show unusual interest in the hospital's procedures and floor plans. They should also be aware of people dressed in hospital clothing who carry infants in the corridors instead of using the bassinets and who leave the hospital with an infant on foot instead of in a wheelchair.

Anyone exhibiting these behaviors should be detained and interviewed, and the incident should be reported immediately.

By taking aggressive action and educating the staff, security managers can increase the safety of the hospital's smallest and most dependent patients.

Jesse C. Gonzelez, CEO and COO of Successful Negotiations Inc. in Palo Alto, CA
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Security Spotlight
Author:Gonzelez, Jesse C.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Words:513
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