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Gang Violence Protocols for Medical Facilities


Gang Violence Protocols for Medical Facilities — 1/16/2017

IV bag hanging in a hospital

In November 2011, in the Bronx, New York, a gang member opened fire on a rival in an emergency room (ER) waiting area, wounding a nurse and a security guard.  In March 2012, a dispute among gang members at a North Miami-area funeral home sparked a mass shooting that injured 12 people and killed 2.  The multiple victims, family members, and rival gang members converged on local emergency rooms, creating a chaotic and highly volatile atmosphere. 

These scenarios have become all too common.  Gang violence can be a threat in any medical facility where patients may be involved in gangs.  Long-standing rivalries, tensions between gangs, and escalating acts of retaliation can occur in hospital emergency rooms, parking lots, waiting areas, and care facilities.  Many gang-involved victims receive treatment in the ER, and rival gang members may seek them out.  As a result, ER personnel can be caught in the crossfire. 

Here are some gang response action steps for medical facilities:

  1. Request gang identification training for ER personnel, including receptionists and security officers, from local gang officers on an annual basis. This training should include visuals of local gang tattoos, clothing, and other identifiers, and should also describe existing rivalries.
  2. Develop a relationship with local gang unit administrators.  Request dispatcher notification when victims of a gang conflict are transported to the ER.  Emergency room personnel should also request further information, including the names/identifiers of the gangs involved and descriptions of suspects/vehicles.  This information should be shared with security and reception personnel.
  3. Limit the number of visitors who can accompany patients into waiting and treatment areas.
  4. Notify security and/or request a law enforcement response in the ER when a gang-involved victim is treated.
  5. Rival gang members may encounter one another inside hospital facilities and in parking areas, so both areas require attention and security.  Hospital administrators may wish to incorporate Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) strategies.  Many law enforcement and city planning agencies can provide CPTED reviews.  Go here for information on CPTED courses.
  6. Prepare for the possibility of treating rival gang members at the same time.  Do not allow rival gang members or their visitors to have contact, either inside or outside of the facility.
  7. In the event of a serious gang incident in the community, hospitals may wish to develop escalated security protocols that include locking down the emergency room and waiting area.

Consider adopting protocols used for domestic violence or child protection screening for use with gang-involved victims.  The American Medical Association provides an online guide for youth violence screening:  https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/youth-violence-effective-screening-and-prevention/2009-02

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