2012 holds the dubious distinction of being the year with the greatest number of fatalities reported by members of the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety since IAHSS began surveying its members nearly 20 years ago. Eight homicides were reported among member facilities during the year, the 2012 Crime and Security Trends Survey states.

Dr. Victoria Mikow-Porto, the principal researcher and writer on the report, says that the survey provides a compass to trends as well as provides information identified by healthcare security professionals as critical to their needs in a rapidly changing field, an IAHSS press release states.

The survey is meant to be used by administrators, the media and others – not just security and safety professionals. It can inform and assist in the identification of areas most vulnerable to crime and violence, which crimes are most likely to occur and resource allocation to reduce risks.

Fatalities by violence is not the only reason for the crime spike – HCF crime increased in nearly ever category since the most recent survey in 2010, with significant rises in simple assaults, larceny and thefts, vandalism, and rape and sexual assaults. It also marks the highest number of crimes ever recorded with the IAHSS Crime Survey – with 20,515 crimes reported, 2012 marks a 5,524-crime increase over 2010.

According to the research, 98 percent of healthcare facilities now experience violence and criminal incidents. Porto attributes this surge to a number of factors, including:

  • Greater access to weapons, particularly guns
  • Generally 24/7, open access to an expanding number of large and small healthcare complexes
  • Long, frustrating waits in emergency rooms
  • Increased size and violence of gangs, and carry over of gang warfare into healthcare facilities
  • Deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients who are unable or unwilling to take medication
  • Increasing treatment of forensics patients who are at high risk for violence
  • Rise in substance abuse, and easily-accessed hospital pharmacies

Porto also points out that these numbers are based on reported crimes, adding that the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that at least half of all crimes go unreported, the press release states.

She also states that information collection is hampered because of litigation concerns faced by these facilities over potential liabilities – she urges legislation to hold harmless such institutions for the purpose of encouraging comprehensive reporting and the standardization of crime definitions to enhance accuracy, the release says.

While violent crime has been on a downward trend in the U.S. since 1993, healthcare does not follow that path – the latest report from the Department of Justice finding the crime rate for 2011 grew by 18 percent, the press release says.

Porto lists more vigilant surveillance of entrances, use of restrains on patients most at risk of being violent, metal detectors to reduce presence of weapons, and training in violence de-escalation for personnel in high risk areas as policies that can help reduce HCF crime and violence.