DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A CBS 11 I-Team investigation found hundreds of cases in North Texas of ill patients having their valuables stolen from the hospital.
For fourteen days, Edna Mouat was at a hospital in Denton with pneumonia. During her stay, someone took her credit cards from her hospital room.
Only after her return home from the hospital when she saw her credit card statements did she realize someone had gone on a shopping spree at her expense.
“For someone to do that when you are at your worst possible time, it makes you feel pretty bad,” she said. “It was almost like they knew how sick I was and that it would be awhile before I realized anything.”
According to police reports obtained by the I-Team, credit cards, cell phones and jewelry are among the most common items stolen from hospitals.
Jason Jordan said protecting his mother’s custom-made engagement ring never crossed his mind when his mother fell and was rushed to a hospital in North Richland Hills where she died later that day.
It was not until after her funeral that Jordan asked the funeral home for his mother’s ring and diamond earrings.
“I just didn’t think about when she was at the hospital,” he said. “I was in such shock of what was happening that I just didn’t think about her jewelry.“
The funeral home told investigators when it picked Jordan’s mother up from the hospital, she had no jewelry.
Jordan told the police he believes while his mother was in bed at the hospital someone stole the ring off her finger.
“It’s not something that you think of happening to you because you trust the hospital,” Jordan said.
While the I-Team confirmed hundreds of theft cases at hospitals, Texas law allows many of the largest hospitals in North Texas to keep crime reports out of the public’s eye.
Texas open government laws requires basic crime reports to be made available to the public upon request.
All of the state’s more than 1,900 law enforcement agencies are subject to the Texas open records laws with the exception of three police departments – Baylor Scott & White Health Police Department, Texas Health Resources Police Department and Methodist Health System Police Department.
These three state licensed police departments with commissioned peace officers cover 26 of the largest 50 hospitals in North Texas.
“The Texas Public Information Act does not apply to private hospitals that operates police departments in Texas,” explained attorney and open government expert Paul Watler. “They have the same authority as the Dallas Police Department to make arrests or to use force and a lot of open government advocates believe that the same sort of public transparency that applies to the Dallas Police Department should apply to a hospital police department.”
Private universities, much like private hospitals, can operate their own police departments in Texas. However, private university police departments are subject to open government laws.
In 2015, after Rice University refused to release an arrest video showing one of its officers striking a suspected bicycle thief, state lawmakers passed a bill requiring private university police departments to be more open about law enforcement actions.
The law does not extend the requirements to the state’s three private hospital police departments.
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