Hospital Violent Crime Increased 47% Last Year

IAHSS’s latest crime survey found that the rate of murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults at U.S. hospitals dramatically increased in 2021.
Published: May 19, 2022

Reno, Nevada — There have been reports over the past several months of significant increases in violent crime at U.S. hospitals during the pandemic, and the latest crime survey conducted by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) appears to confirm those earlier findings.

The IAHSS Foundation 2022 Crime Survey found that the rate of hospital violent crime, which includes murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults increased to a record 2.5 incidents per 100 beds in 2021, which was a 47% increase compared to 2020 when the rate of violent crime was 1.7 per 100 beds. The latest findings are particularly troubling because the rate of violent crime in U.S. hospitals in 2020 was also a record.

The results of the survey were announced at the IAHSS 54th Annual Conference and Exhibition on Wednesday by Security Industry Association Director of Industry Relations Ronald Hawkins.

In addition to the sharp rise in violent crime, the 2021 assault rate also increased, from 14.2 incidents per 100 beds in 2020 to 17.7 per 100 beds last year. That’s a nearly 25% increase and another record-setting rate. Additionally, the burglary rate rose 40% last year compared to the previous year (a record rate of .7 incidents per 100 beds). The theft rate increased 16%.

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Motor vehicle thefts stayed the same in 2021 at .4 incidents per 100 beds, while vandalism increased from 2.4 in 2020 to 2.6 per 100 beds last year, an 8% increase.

Disorderly conduct jumped from 36.7 per 100 beds two years ago to 56.8 in 2021, a nearly 55% jump.

New to the survey this year was elopements at 6.1 per 100 beds. However, when the data from the two hospitals with the highest rates of elopements were removed, that rate dropped to 4.5 per 100 beds.

When comparing respondents that do or don’t have an inpatient psychiatric/behavioral unit, the rate is 6.7 elopements for those that do and 5.4 for those that don’t. Hospitals with behavioral units tend to be larger (399 beds v. 234 beds). Nearly half (47%) have these types of units.

Hospitals with threat management teams (57% of survey participants) have 7.2 elopements per 100 beds compared to 4.7 elopements at hospitals that don’t have a threat management team. Again, the hospitals with these types of teams tend to be larger (342 beds v. 279 beds).

Respondents with visitor management programs (82% of participants) have 6.6 elopements per 100 beds, compared to 3.8 for those that don’t have visitor management programs. Like respondents with threat management teams and behavioral health units, hospitals with visitor management programs are more likely to be larger (320 beds v. 272 beds).

It should be noted that the study, which had 227 participants, had some limitations, particularly relating to violent crime and other assaults in hospitals.

According to Hawkins, one hospital that participated had a much higher rate of aggravated assaults than the others. When that one hospital’s data was removed, the rate of violent crime (murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults) last year went down to 2.2 from 2.5. Additionally, seven hospitals had nearly double the rate of aggravated assaults. When the data from those seven hospitals was removed, the rate of violent crime dropped to 1.3 incidents per 100 beds.

The same outlier effect applies to other assaults and disorderly conduct. When data from the five hospitals with the highest rates of other assaults was removed, the rate was 12.1 rather than 17.7. With disorderly conduct, when the top six hospitals were removed, the rate was 30.1 per 100 beds.

That being said, the 2020 data didn’t take into account the outliers, so to make an apples-to-apples comparison, the outliers needed to remain in the 2021 data.

To address the challenges in collecting accurate and usable hospital crime data, IAHSS released on Monday new guidance on incident categories and data analysis, as well as a framework and glossary.

“These documents lay the foundation [for] a more standardized and consistent approach to the collection and categorization of security incidents within healthcare,” IAHSS stated in a press release. “The goal is to improve the ability to statistically compare from healthcare facility to healthcare facility while driving evidence-based (data-driven) decisioning that support the maintenance of a safe environment, the implementation of best practices, the growth of security program initiatives, and the implementation of safety and security-related mitigations.”

IAHSS also stressed the importance of all hospitals completing the crime surveys that IAHSS conducts on a yearly basis.

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