Earlier this month, a newborn baby was smuggled out of a Glendale, Arizona, hospital by her father. Security experts say that it was not just a failing on the part of the electronic security bracelet the baby was wearing, but also the initial screening process that allowed the father to conceal his newborn daughter in a shopping bag and steal her from the hospital nursery.
According to the arrest report supplied by the Glendale Police Department, the baby's mother fled the hospital prior to being officially released in an effort to avoid potential prosecution when the baby was found to have methamphetamine, marijuana, and morphine in her system and Child Protective Services had been called to take custody.
It was at that point that the baby’s father Jason Bristol, on probation for illegal marijuana possession and having an order of protection against him, entered Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in an attempt to take the baby before CPS could intervene, according to the arrest report.
Rawley Douglas, manager of inside sales for Quantum Secure which creates security system checks and balances for issuing ID badges for those visiting hospitals, airports, and major oil companies says in an interview that the use of physical security like the HUGS electronic bracelets worn by this baby need added security screening measures to prevent this from happening in the future at this or any other facility.
"There is room for improvement in the way many hospitals tether a credential check to their access security control systems," Mr. Douglas said. "Medical staff should just be able to flag someone who's not supposed to have access to a patient or in this case a baby. It's the same system hospitals use when they have a celebrity patient who wants to limit access. In this case, if that father wasn't supposed to be there because CPS [Child Protective Services] was involved or there was an order of protection against him, the system would have known and no ID card would be issued. Game over."
As it was, Mr. Bristol was able to gain access to the baby and nearly succeeded in getting away with his two-day-old daughter.
The father’s apparent goal was to retrieve his daughter, who was born in a private home and later brought to the hospital, before social services could intervene on the child’s behalf.
“When interviewed the suspect [Bristol] acknowledged that he and the mother knew the child was going to be removed from them [after testing positive for methamphetamine, marijuana, and morphine] so he wanted to get out of the hospital," according to the Glendale Police Department’s arrest report.
The kidnapping was entirely caught on hospital security cameras and video has been widely viewed online. The baby was taken from the father and is now in Department of Child Safety custody.
As the video shows, Bristol carried the newborn in a shopping bag from the nursery to the fire exit door which was secured, thanks to the HUGS bracelet on the baby. The bracelets are made by Stanley Health Care.
“HUGS is only the physical security end,” says Mr. Douglas. “Today, hospitals and other facilities that want to remain secure need to adopt a more thorough two-step process. This man should and could have easily been stopped right at the front desk.”
The electronic HUGS security bracelet the infant was wearing functioned properly by initiating an electronic lock down of all doors.
Alarms sounded and according to the police report, when questioned, Bristol said he thought it was a fire alarm and that it was all right for him to be taking his baby away in a shopping bag through a fire exit.
In the video, Bristol tries to take the baby through the locked fire exit door initially. A few moments pass and the door resets and unlocks, allowing him to get out of the building.
According to HUGS representative Matthew Rifflemacher, a team of security experts was in the process of reviewing both the surveillance video from the hospital and the floor plan and parameters of the hospital’s security system.
“I can’t comment on this case specifically,” Mr. Rifflemacher says. “However, I’m sure that the response to this will be immediate. A team is on this right now.”