Securing Johns Hopkins Hospital

October 08, 1992

An overhaul and expansion of the Johns Hopkins Hospital security force will be regarded with relief by the thousands of people who work at and visit that sprawling East Baltimore institution every day. A world class hospital deserves a first-class security force, and the step-up in security is long overdue. A number of brazen attacks have occurred this year. A medical student was raped, a physician kidnapped, a professor robbed at knife-point in her office.

Located at the corner of Wolfe and Monument streets, the hospital is on the fringes of a neighborhood that has grown steadily poorer over the years. Hopkins' role in the community has been controversial. While the hospital has encouraged housing rehabilitation south of its complex, it controls derelict properties that add to the blight of the area north of the hospital. Boarded-up houses, junkies and drug traffickers are much in evidence. Amid all that misery, employees and visitors and their cars become tempting targets.

Putting aside for now the question of what Hopkins can do about its neighborhood, it has always puzzled us why security inside the hospital is so lax. The check-in point at the Wolfe Street entrance is either so crowded or staff so lackadaisical that anyone with a modicum of self-confidence can walk past without being stopped. Visitors bothering to sign in can retain their passes indefinitely. For all practical purposes, hospital security personnel have no idea how many outsiders they have in the building, whether those people have any business to be there in the first place and whether they ever leave the building.

These are serious shortcomings, but partial solutions do not have to be that expensive. Regular out-patients already are issued plastic cards for billing verification. Why not integrate those into the check-in process at the hospital entrance?

Under plans now being implemented, the hospital expects to hire a new vice president to coordinate all security issues. The guard force will be overhauled and a new complement of trained personnel hired. Hopkins also plans to increase the number of off-duty police officers who will provide high-profile patrols around the hospital. Security and lighting in parking garages are to be enhanced.

Security is a constant concern for employees and visitors. This could be seen at the hospital this week when McGruff, the crime dog, was handing out key chains with whistles during an anti-crime drill. People went into a frenzy trying to grab one.

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