Todd Milne imageHospital security at UHN was on high alert last week, after two men allegedly walked into a Toronto hospital and robbed a dying woman of $7,000 worth of jewellery. Police have since arrested the suspects, but the incident serves as a reminder to employees and patients to leave valuables at home, says Todd Milne, Senior Manager of Security Operations.

UHNews: When did you first hear about the robbery and what did you do?
Todd Milne We started tracking the incident when Brampton Civic Hospital first got hit. We have a very strong network people who belong to the International Association for Healthcare Safety and Security (IAHSS), through whom we share information with other hospitals and alert one another to things that might affect other hospitals. Through the network system, Brampton hospital sent out surveillance images and descriptions of the suspects, who allegedly also hit St. Joseph's Health Centre, Toronto East General, York Central and North York Central hospitals. We assessed the likelihood of a robbery happening here and then notified our security team, who went on alert for people who fit the descriptions.

UHNews: What should one do if they see someone suspicious?
TM: If someone looks suspicious, say to that person, "May I help you?" Not only is it part of UHN's patient-centred-care approach, but it also helps weed out people who are here looking for crimes of opportunity — that is, thefts that result from leaving your valuables unsecured. From their responses, we can gauge whether they're telling the truth. Somebody who should not be here will often throw up a lot of fluff about a doctor or room number they're looking for. We'll continue asking questions to ascertain the nature of their business, and if unlawful, they generally default with the statement of having the wrong information. Then we'll notify our sister hospitals to let them know that a suspicious person might be coming their way.

UHNews: How can you avoid falling victim to crimes of opportunity?
TM: By securing your valuables — so by locking up your laptop, wallet, purse, or ID card — and by leaving things like jewelry and credit cards at home. If you're a patient, you want to minimize what you bring to the hospital, or make sure your loved ones have control of your valuables. If you don't need to bring it, don't. You can also lock up your valuables with security by letting the nurse know upon admission. He or she will bring you an envelope to store your items and issue you a claim ticket. That envelope will then be taken to security and kept under lock and key.

UHNews: In the past few years, has crime gone down, increased or stayed the same at UHN?
TM: According to our Environment of Care reports, the total number of reported thefts — including both hospital and personal thefts —declined 13% annually between 2007 and 2010.

UHNews: What are we doing now that we weren't doing a few years ago?
TM: Five years ago, we didn't have the security network we have now, which is a really fantastic network. Back then, before implementing our magnetic locking devices, we had some small [security] issues — mainly access problems. It was very easy to access our hospitals, particularly through the stairways. People would prop open the doors with rocks or the doors wouldn't latch behind upon exiting. We have since reduced our access points by securing most of our perimeter doors via magnetic locking devices. So our entrance points are now under control and people aren't popping out through all these different side doors. The entrances are also under surveillance using closed circuit television (CCTV). In the past five years, we have also doubled the number of our CCTVs — to 400 cameras across UHN. When Princess Margaret Hospital first opened in the late '90s, it had 16 cameras, now it has 90. Our card-access points have also increased dramatically. We have card readers at all our after hour main entrances now.

UHNews: Are people allowed to hang out at the hospital for no reason?
TM: UHN is private property, but it's still public access. Our food courts, for example, are open to the public. Think of UHN as a traffic light: green areas are public; yellow areas are patient floors, which are still open to the public but require you to obtain permission before visiting; and red zones, such as are research, pharmacy manufacturing, human resources and finance, are controlled access points requiring card access. It's the "piggybackers" who are challenging —  that's when we hold doors for strangers. We shouldn't do that, but if we do, we should be asking them, "May I help you?"

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