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Hostile health care
Published: 06/30/2008

Skull Editor’s Note: This story is being shared with us by Gangs Across America, an online source providing strategies to combat gangs across the nation. From time to time, Corrections.com will publish articles from the Gangs Across America website.

A common misconception held by health care workers (nurses, doctors, admin., etc..) health care security professionals, and law enforcement officers has led to a false sense of security. The misconception, simply stated, is that hospitals and health care facilities are neutral territory for gangs and other bad guys. I don't know where anyone came up with that idea. To the contrary, [these] other health care facilities are frequent venues for gang activity. After a long night of drinking, drugging, gang banging and fighting, many gang members, and their rivals, end up in hospital emergency rooms. And once at the ER, in an agitated or intoxicated state, violence is seconds away.

What I have seen, in my 25 years of law enforcement and my personal experience in health care facilities, is that gang members, drug dealers, drug abusers, and just the average everyday criminal needs little or no provocation to attack a doctor, nurse, or health care staff member. I have witnessed several incidents of violence. For no apparent reason, other than a long wait in the ER, one gang member smacked a nurse in the face. On another occasion, a prostitute threatened the lives of everyone in a doctor's waiting room a few months ago just because she didn't like the way others were looking at her.

There are many warning signs (indicators) of violence and/or gangs. Some things to look for are:
  1. Obvious agitation of patients and /or visitors as they arrive to the ER. This may indicate that they just came from a fight or may be looking for a fight.
  2. Mad dogging: A staring down or staring contest between visitors or directed at staff can be a clear indicator of impending violence. Many times, rival gang members arrive at the ER and begin a mad dogging session that will usually erupt into violence.
  3. Gang identifiers can be a great indicator of a gang's presence and, of course, if there is a gang presence, the potential for violence, even to staff, increases exponentially. Gang identifiers can manifest themselves in the form of colors, clothing of the same designer, a specific symbol, a specific sports team. Gang identifiers can be displayed in items on the person of the gang member (phone books, bandannas, etc.)
  4. Other indicators can be the refusal to give up, or hide possession of a bag or clothing that can be hiding weapons or drugs. Several years ago, I was called to the local hospital in a Brooklyn. An ER patient involved in a car accident would not relinquish his clothing to a nurse and he was later observed passing a bag to a friend (fellow drug gang member). When my officers responded we found the bag possessed several pounds of marijuana ready for sale and the person who took possession was armed with a gun. Had the nurse or security intervened further, the drug dealers were prepared to kill!
As a CEO of a security firm that specializes in health care security, I provide security to visiting nurses who are susceptible to violence because of the high-crime areas they are required to visit. Prior to my company providing security, some nurses were robbed, shot at, and one was even raped in these high crime areas. It’s difficult to give adequate care when you are in fear of your life!

Sgt Lou Savelli has spent 25 years in law enforcement. 21 years in some of NYPD’s toughest assignments. He is currently a law enforcement and security trainer and is the CEO of a security firm called Homefront Security that provides security and armed escorts for healthcare professionals. He can be reached at homefrontprotect@aol.com

Other articles by Savelli:

Ideological connections between gangs and terrorists, 5/25/08

The gang terrorist connection, part II 6/2/08


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