Thefts from hospital keep security staff on their toes

18:26, Dec 26 2012
LOOK OUT: Waikato Hospital’s security guards Kelly Cookson, Lingi Tukia and Hinewai Clark and Constable Heath Cameron are part of the team trying to crack down on car thefts.
LOOK OUT: Waikato Hospital’s security guards Kelly Cookson, Lingi Tukia and Hinewai Clark and Constable Heath Cameron are part of the team trying to crack down on car thefts.

A car is being stolen from Waikato Hospital on average every second week as thieves look to make a quick buck from those visiting, or helping, the sick and injured.

But the thieves are not stopping there, with cellphones, money and handbags also being nicked from patients' rooms.

Waikato Hospital head of security Dean Ria told the Waikato Times around 30 cars were being stolen from the hospital's grounds every year and figures showed a further five thefts from patients occurred every month.

Nearly every table and chair in the hospital is now either chained or bolted down and staff have been told to be extra suspicious of people loitering.

Information obtained under the Official Information Act shows that in the year 2010/11, 67 Waikato District Health Board patients reported items missing, with the Women's Care ward being a particular hot spot with 20 of the items listed.

While many of the items taken were wallets, money or phones, Mr Ria said it had a massive impact on people already going through a traumatic experience, especially if a car was taken.


"Hospitals normally aren't places where you come for good reasons, so to come out of a facility and walk out and find some lowlife has taken your car, that really irritates and frustrates me," Mr Ria said.

He said it was disgusting that groups were going to the hospital specifically to steal things.

"But to be really honest, mate, nothing surprises me to do with human nature. That might be the ex cynical cop talking, but I just find if you don't have high aspirations for people, you won't be disappointed.

"This is such a complex environment and we are in a constant war of attrition against car thefts on this site."

In the past two-and-a-half years hospital security staff had helped police catch five different groups of car thieves thanks to increased vigilance and closed circuit television cameras.

"We had a car taken from the main car park building . . . on viewing the CCTV footage the police were able to identify two of the three offenders in 90 seconds, which is the time it took them to steal the car.

"We have about 3000 cars on site so if it's 90 seconds to take one, we need some factors in our favour to deal with that."

However, Mr Ria admitted they did not always catch the thieves - including the person who stole an artwork from a wall at the beginning of November.

"It is really tough. We have between 6000 and 8000 people on site here a day, so our ability to track someone down is tough."

The worst theft Mr Ria had seen was when two defibrillators, worth around $2500 each, were taken. "It poses the question - what would you do with them? They are not like a car, or a plasma TV, laptop or phone. You can't just start using them at home that day.

"I do get irate when gear gets stolen just because it looks flash or expensive from key areas like your critical care areas such as the ED and Nicu (neonatal intensive care unit) because straight away that's a piece of gear that can't be replaced quickly and patient care is affected."

The strangest theft came in June when an opportunist thief plumbed into their nitrous oxide line and siphoned off thousands of dollars worth of the gas.

Waikato Times