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Hospitals Targeted for Robberies

Thieves, posing as visitors or hospital staff personnel, have stolen cash and credit cards from patients and hospital staff inside Suburban Hospital in Bethesda and Shady Grove Hospital in Rockville.

"These are particularly troubling because the suspects are taking advantage of patients who can't take care of themselves and health care professionals who are helping other patients," said Derek Baliles, spokesperson for Montgomery County Police. "They have, on once occasion at Suburban Hospital, attempted to steal the purse of a terminally-ill patient who has since died."

THE SUSPECTS have entered public areas of the two hospitals and stolen, or attempted to steal, cash and credit cards from unattended purses inside Suburban Hospital on May 14 and May 21 and inside Shady Grove Adventist Hospital on May 15 and June 9.

Investigators believe that the thieves — at least two black females, one black male and one unknown suspect — have entered Suburban and Shady Grove hospitals posing as hospital staff or as visitors.

"They have worn white lab coats in an attempt to look like they work there, but they have no I.D.," said Baliles. Hospital staff wear name tags and I.D. cards in the open, he said.

The suspects then look for unattended purses and remove the cash and credit cards inside the wallets in patient rooms, public hallways and at nurses stations.

Soon after, the suspects have gone to nearby stores where they use the credit cards to their limits, usually within an hour after the thefts, according to police reports.

"NONE OF THIS is the fault of security of the hospitals," said Baliles. "They have done an excellent job balancing the need to be open to the public and to protect patients and staff. If they had not done such a good job, we wouldn't have photos and the information we have."

The areas targeted by the suspects have included public hallways, patient floors and rooms and nurses stations. Thefts have occurred, most often during the evening hours.

At Suburban Hospital, after a patient's belongings were stolen, hospital staff alerted security who were able to identify the type of car and possible tag number of the car they suspects drove in before they got away, said Baliles.

Police have talked to all local hospitals warning them that the suspects may strike their hospitals as well, said Baliles.

"People have been good calling in on who they think the people are, and when they have thought they have been victims," said Baliles.

<1b>— Ken Moore