STOCKTON (CBS13) — A woman’s alleged joyride in a stolen ambulance is prompting questions about the security of emergency vehicles.
Stockton police say Natasha Scott, 34, stole an ambulance from St. Joseph’s Medical Center just after 6 p.m. on Monday.
Taking the ambulance didn’t seem to be that difficult for Scott. Witnesses say it took just seconds to jump in for a 10-minute joyride.
Police say paramedics were helping a patient they transported. When they returned, their ambulance was gone.
First responders say it happens too often. Ambulances, police cars, and firetruck. There are almost monthly reports of thieves driving off in emergency vehicles.
In July, investigators a man and a woman lead a two-hour chase through four counties in a stolen fire truck. The California Highway Patrol says the man was able to hop in the engine, pick up a female companion and lead police pursuers on a 100-mile chase.
How many times similar incidents occur isn’t known. EMS experts say no single agency tracks how many emergency vehicles are stolen nationwide.
There is also no industry-wide standard to prevent the thefts, but the reasoning behind that is methodical.
“The last thing you want to do is create regulation or policy that is so limiting that your personnel can’t use that good judgment as necessary,” said Rick Jones, an EMS Analyst with the San Joaquin County Emergency Medical Agency.
He says strict, reactionary policies aren’t always the answer.
“An actual prohibition, for example, you shall never leave your ambulance with your keys in it or running, could actually have problems on the other side not anticipated,” he said.
He says it’s up to individual companies to determine whether the keys should be left in or out of an ambulance.
In this case, NorCal Ambulance officials say paramedics left the keys in the ignition to keep the air running and the ambulance cool enough for patients.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in the crash.