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Hundreds of patients report thefts at Atlanta area hospitals

An IAHSS survey of 400 hospitals across the U.S. showed on average, roughly 5 thefts would take place, for every 100 beds.
Updated: Nov. 19, 2021 at 7:03 PM EST
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ATLANTA (CBS46) — At least 300 patients claim their valuables - ranging from cell phones to jewelry to drivers licenses - were stolen during their stays at Atlanta-area hospitals, over the last three years.

That’s according to a CBS46 investigation that combed through dozens of incidents reports filed with local police departments. More than half of the thefts took place in metro Atlanta hospitals.

While a majority of these thefts involved stolen phones, iPads, and laptops -- there were also a number of parked cars that were broken into. And in a couple of cases, guns were stolen out of glove boxes.

“I was there to advocate when they couldn’t advocate for themselves,” said Lola Jones, of Tucker. “As an RN, I always felt protective of my patients.”

But when Lola Jones, the now-retired nurse, found herself hospitalized at Emory Decatur in July 2021, she says she didn’t feel protected when her driver’s license and social security card disappeared.

“I think it was stolen,” said Jones. “If you’re sick or you just had surgery, how can you protect your personal items? You can’t.”

Yolanda Langston Tatum had a similar experience at Wellstar Cobb in July 2020.

“I had two white gold necklaces. One was 16 inches, one was 18 inches, taken from my bedside table,” said Yolanda Langston Taum, of Marietta. “Those were very special to me. They replaced it with money but it was not the same thing.”

Both women filed police reports. They’re two of around 300 patients who did so, over the last three years. “It’s pretty sad that you can’t go to a health facility and just feel safe,” Langston Tatum said.

CBS46 Investigates reached out to police departments and sheriffs offices throughout the Atlanta area, asking for incidents involving thefts at area hospitals.

Out of the 311 thefts that were reported, 182 took place in Atlanta hospitals. 86 took place across four Wellstar hospitals. 83 took place at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. 73 took place at Grady Memorial. 40 took place at Emory Hillandale and Emory DeKalb Medical Center.

2019: 103 Thefts

42- Piedmont Atlanta Hospital (1968 Peachtree Rd NW, Atlanta, Fulton County)

21- Grady Memorial (80 Jesse Hill Jr Dr SE, Atlanta, Fulton County)

5- Wellstar Atlanta (303 Parkway Dr NE, Atlanta, Fulton County)

6-Wellstar Cobb Hospital (3950 Austell Road, Austell, Cobb County)

11- Wellstar North Fulton Hospital (3000 Hospital Blvd, Roswell, Fulton County)

10- Wellstar Kennestone Hospital (677 Church Street, Marietta, Cobb County)

3- Emory Hillandale (2801 Dekalb Medical Pkwy, Lithonia, DeKalb County)

1- Emory Dekalb Medical Center (2701 N Decatur Rd, Decatur, DeKalb County)

4- Piedmont Henry (1133 Eagles Landing Parkway, Stockbridge, Henry County)

2020: 138 Thefts

34- Piedmont Atlanta Hospital (1968 Peachtree Rd NW, Atlanta, Fulton County)

29- Grady Memorial (80 Jesse Hill Jr Dr SE, Atlanta, Fulton County)

16- Wellstar Atlanta (303 Parkway Dr NE, Atlanta, Fulton County)

9-Wellstar Cobb Hospital (3950 Austell Road, Austell, Cobb County)

8- Wellstar North Fulton Hospital (3000 Hospital Blvd, Roswell, Fulton County)

8- Wellstar Kennestone Hospital (677 Church Street, Marietta, Cobb County)

9- Emory Hillandale (2801 Dekalb Medical Pkwy, Lithonia, DeKalb County)

9- Emory Dekalb Medical Center (2701 N Decatur Rd, Decatur, DeKalb County)

3- Georgia Regional (3073 Panthersville Rd, Decatur, DeKalb County)

13- Piedmont Henry (1133 Eagles Landing Parkway, Stockbridge, Henry County)

Jan-Oct 2021: 70 Thefts

7- Piedmont Atlanta Hospital (1968 Peachtree Rd NW, Atlanta, Fulton County)

23- Grady Memorial (80 Jesse Hill Jr Dr SE, Atlanta, Fulton County)

5- Wellstar Atlanta (303 Parkway Dr NE, Atlanta, Fulton County)

2-Wellstar Cobb Hospital (3950 Austell Road, Austell, Cobb County)

4- Wellstar North Fulton Hospital (3000 Hospital Blvd, Roswell, Fulton County)

2- Wellstar Kennestone Hospital (677 Church Street, Marietta, Cobb County)

7- Emory Hillandale (2801 Dekalb Medical Pkwy, Lithonia, DeKalb County)

11- Emory Dekalb Medical Center (2701 N Decatur Rd, Decatur, DeKalb County)

3- Georgia Regional (3073 Panthersville Rd, Decatur, DeKalb County)

6- Piedmont Henry (1133 Eagles Landing Parkway, Stockbridge, Henry County)

As you can see in the numbers, thefts in North Georgia hospitals increased from 2019 to 2020. Thefts decreased from 2020 to 2021, although we don’t have data yet for November and December 2021.

“Most of these are crimes of opportunity,” said Paul Sarnese, who heads the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS), an organization that is dedicated to professionals involved in managing security and safety programs in healthcare facilities.

Sarnese said sadly, these crimes are common. “Ultimately it comes down to the location, the clientele that your serving and the services your providing. That’s really what determines the risk of the environment,” Sarnese added.

A 2021 IAHSS survey of 400 hospitals across the U.S. showed on average, roughly 5 thefts would take place, for every 100 beds.

“The most vulnerable are often targeted, somebody that may be incapacitated or somebody that may not be paying attention because they’re in pain,” Sarnese said.

Sarnese’s best advice, leave your valuables at home.

“Anything that is important to you, you’re not gonna need it in the hospital,” Sarnese said.

A good suggestion but one that Langston Tatum says she didn’t have time to think about.

“Take your things if you can but you don’t know. I didn’t know I was gonna stay there,” Langston Tatum added.

Hospitals Respond:

Grady Health System and Piedmont Healthcare did not provide CBS46 with a quote or statement.