August 21, 1997 in Nation/World

Newborn Taken From N.J. Hospital Mother Left Baby In Care Of Woman Who Walked Off With Child

Ronald Smothers New York Times
 

A woman who engaged a mother in admiring conversation about her new born baby walked out of a hospital here with the child Wednesday, police said.

The kidnapping, at the nine-story St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, took place about 12:45 p.m. EDT, police said, just as the mother and her baby were about to be discharged from the maternity ward.

Lt. Bruce Price of the Paterson police said that by the time they got the call from the hospital security office, it was too late to cover all the exits of the sprawling medical complex to prevent the woman from leaving with the child.

Police said the woman entered the hospital room and began admiring the newborn as she talked with the mother. The mother went to take a shower, leaving the baby with the woman. When she returned, both the child and the woman were gone.

Hospital officials would give no other details about the incident, nor would they identify the mother and exactly when the child had been born.

Studies by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have shown that more than half the infant abductions in any year are from the mother’s hospital room. Those studies also indicate that most of the babies have been recovered within hours of their abduction. In many cases, the kidnappers are women who have lost a baby or cannot become pregnant.

Still, the number of such abductions is minuscule in comparison with the more than 4.1 million births annually.

To prevent kidnappings, some hospitals have adopted advance security measures like surveillance systems and outfitting newborns with sensor bracelets that set off alarms when the baby is carried past a checkpoint.

A St. Joseph’s Hospital spokeswoman, Teri Gatto, would not comment on specifics of the hospital’s security measures, but said, “We have the proper security.”


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