When Aaron Todd returned to his sports medicine office at the University of Miami Hospital in July, his laptop bag -- which held his social security card, keys, and Veterans Affairs card -- was gone. So began his maddening descent into the lax security at the giant hospital, which made national headlines in August when an employee walked out with $14 million in drugs.
In hindsight, the brazen theft shouldn't seem such a shock. According to a City of Miami Police incident list obtained by Riptide, 25 robberies have been reported at the hospital this year, including six in September alone. In 2011, 31 thefts were reported.
"How in the world are that many crimes being committed?" Todd asks.
After his bag was stolen, Todd began investigating the crime on his own and quickly found holes in hospital security. Guards, who told him a man spotted in the hallways wearing a sweatshirt and hat was likely to blame, couldn't explain how he'd gotten into the building without photo ID. A security video was also missing 40 minutes of footage, and despite the fact that the suspicious man loitered in the building for more than an hour, no guards approached him before the crime.
"How alert are they?" Todd asks.
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Those are the same kinds of holes critics say led to the massive three-year drug heist, which was discovered only by an outside audit this summer. A pharmacy technician, Manuel Gerardo Pacheco, has been charged in the case. (UM's security department has not responded to a request for comment.)
The records back up Todd's claims of systematic problems. They show that thieves repeatedly broke into cars on hospital property and took radios, iPhones, and purses. In one incident on September 28, a woman reported a defibrillator valued at $90,000, as well as three pacemakers worth $24,000, stolen from her car in a hospital lot. In another case on August 14, a disabled woman left her hospital room for testing, only to return and find that someone had made off with $500 worth of jewelry, along with her social security card and her food stamps card.
UM officials have promised a new focus on security in the wake of Pacheco's crimes. So far, those promises haven't turned into results for Todd. Security never recovered his missing stuff. To add insult to injury, he was fired by the hospital two months later, an act he alleges was for his outspoken questioning of security procedures.