Newborn's abduction forever changed hospital security

Safeguards in maternity wards to protect babies

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hospitals in northeast Florida and across the nation increased security in maternity wards after a newborn was taken from a Jacksonville hospital in 1998.

Following the abduction of Kamiyah Mobley, the University Medical Center, which became Shands Jacksonville, then UF Health Jacksonville, added wristbands and ankle bands for newborns, along with limiting access to the maternity ward, increasing security and instituting kidnapping drills.

Eighteen years later, Mobley was found alive in South Carolina, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announced Friday. And 18 years later, safeguards still remain in place to protect newborns and to ensure what happened to her will never happen again.

More than 8,000 babies are delivered each year at hospitals across 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. 

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"Like most hospitals, we currently have specialized, state-of-the-art security measures in place, both personnel-based and electronic, to protect newborns and their mothers," read a statement in-part issued by UF Health, where about 3,000 babies are delivered annually.

St. Vincent's HealthCare, which delivers about 4,000 babies each year, also released a statement, saying it takes the safety of patients and their families very seriously:

"Our commitment is to maintain a safe and healthy environment by having robust security measures and staff at each of our hospitals."  

Ilyssa Drumm with Memorial Hospital said it's their top obligation to make sure all patients, especially babies, are in a safe and secure environment from the moment they're born until the moment they leave the hospital. 

"At Memorial, we deliver more than 1,400 babies a year," Drumm said. "We want new moms to have peace of mind knowing that when they are in our care, they and their babies are as safe as possible."

Memorial Hospital's security measures are constantly evolving, Drumm said. 

"We follow national guidelines put out by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children," Drumm said. "And we educate our staff, and it's not just staff who care for infants and children, but all of our staff. We continually monitor that education."

Richard Sem, president of Sem Security Management -- a national company that assess security and workplace violence in hospitals throughout the country -- explained Friday how newborn security is much different now from 18 years ago when Kamiyah was kidnapped. 

"Hospitals weren't necessarily as strict and as careful as they may be today," Sem said. "For instance, one thing that evolved is called 'infant abduction alarm systems.' So, today, they tag a baby with a tag on its wrist or bellybutton or ankle and, if a baby gets anywhere close to an exit or a door, it would alarm for staff to respond."

In addition to the alarm systems, Sem said, employees go through training and staged drills to make sure staff knows how to react if a newborn abduction is reported.

Hospitals, including those in Jacksonville, also stay connected so one can alert others if they have evidence of someone possibly trying to abduct a baby.