Hospitals cracked down on security after Kamiyah's abduction

Maternity wards now have multiple layers of protection

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Safety of newborns in area hospitals has improved dramatically in the 20 years since Kamiyah Mobley was kidnapped from what was then University Hospital.

More than 8,000 babies are delivered each year at hospitals in greater Jacksonville. Though most area hospitals are not able to release details about security in newborn areas, officials stressed how important it is to stay up-to-date with technology and training as times change.

Even though the abduction took place at what is now UF Health Jacksonville, employees at Memorial Hospital said multiple layers of protection were added at their facility to ensure that a newborn never gets taken from its maternity ward.

If a baby nears an exit or an area where a baby is not supposed to be, an alarm goes off, everyone in the labor and delivery unit is alerted and, if necessary, every exit of the hospital can be locked down.

"Babies are vulnerable. They don't have a voice, so we have to protect them," said Jill Bodden, director of the Woman's and Children's Center at Memorial Hospital.

For obvious reasons, Bodden woudn't go into the specifics of hospital security, but she said part of the safety net includes dozens of monitored security cameras and frequent checks of any foreign object leaving the labor and delivery unit which could contain a hidden baby.

In July 1998, Gloria Williams walked out of University Hospital with Kamiyah in a large handbag.

"We do restrict car seats and strollers. You wouldn't want people going around in car seats or strollers," Bodden said. "People leaving the unit, men or women, (their) bags are looked in."

Delivery boxes and housekeeping carts are searched as well, and there's limited access for employees and visiting families. 

"It used to be that you could go and look through the window of the baby unit and see all the babies, even if you didn't have a baby there. Today, if you don't have a family member, you aren't allowed on (the floor)," Bodden said.

Hospitals follow the security recommendations set by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, but each hospital also has its own measures in place.

Hospitals frequently request that representatives from the National Center for Missing and and Exploited Children to visit  to make suggestions on implementing new security measures.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.