Scan the community crime map for Newton online and numerous trends will emerge. One that jumps out is the high volume of assaults occurring around the Newton Medical Center. In fact, it was one of the most frequent locations (top five) where that particular crime was reported over the course of the past year.
Newton Police Chief Eric Murphy noted there is a reason behind that. Partially, it is because the NPD will take individuals out to the hospital who are in crisis or some sort of "psychiatric need."
"In order for us to seek any sort of a treatment for them for their psychiatric issues, we have to have them medically cleared in order to do that," Murphy said.
During the period of picking up that individual and transporting them to the hospital, Murphy noted it is not uncommon for the subject to return to a combative state. In at least one case, he admitted that one officer was assaulted at least four times before the subject calmed down enough for treatment.
Other than that, the majority of cases handled at the hospital revolve around individuals under the influence (drugs or alcohol), who may also become combative in certain situations. Though the NPD has no continued, full-time presence at the hospital, Murphy noted there is an open dialogue between his department and NMC regarding best security practices.
For Newton Medical Center, safety and security measures are always under review — with Chief Operating Officer Todd Tangeman admitting that is a policy employed for the express purpose of implementing the best practices to protect its staff, patients and visitors.
"We continually monitor our practices and make adjustments as appropriate. For example, in the past 12 months we have provided our entire team with new and additional training to learn effective skills and practices in recognizing and managing aggression," Tangeman said.
Several layers of security are in place, according to Tangeman, all in an effort to protect those at NMC at any given point of time. Incidents can occur in several locations, though, which makes mitigating risks a central focus of the security discussions.
Patients like Beverly Mayeske have praised the measures NMC goes to in terms of providing safety on its premises, but they still have their concerns. Mayeske stated that while she was getting blood transfusions at the hospital earlier this year — sometimes until 2 a.m. — a male nurse would always escort her out of the building once her treatment was complete.
While that added layer of protection for Mayeske was appreciated, she still worried about her sister who was there with her during the treatments and to take her home.
"I didn't feel at risk because he (the nurse) was there and my sister was there, but what I felt was her having to walk clear out to that parking lot to get her car and bring it up front then for them to dismiss me, that's what was so bad," Mayeske said.
An increase in violent crimes has led to heightened awareness and concern around the community, but Tangeman noted security measures will continue to evolve in order to best safeguard the hospital. In recent discussions with a director of safety and security at a large, urban medical center from a neighboring state, that same subject was brought up and Tangeman said it was revealed that NMC has many of the 'big hospital' solutions already in place.
Even though the NPD may not be able to have a constant presence at the hospital, Murphy noted officers will stop in periodically to check on the hospital, get to know staff and vice-versa.
Conversations on the topic of security are also ongoing between the organizations and will continue to be addressed into the future as the NPD and hospital are both invested in protecting the community it serves.
"If there's a situation out there that they don't feel is safe or if they think there's somebody that may be assaultive or so forth, they do call us and we do respond," Murphy said. "We don't want anything to happen at the hospital just like anywhere else. We'd rather be there as a preventative measure then have to be there and have to wrestle with somebody — or not be called, then something bad happens — because the staff is not trained to deal with assaultive individuals in the same manner that we are."
"The medical center will continue with its efforts to assess risk," Tangeman said, "and take actions as appropriate and reasonable to strengthen the safety and security of the facility."