Ambulances stolen from New Orleans hospitals
New Orleans police tracked down two ambulances stolen from two different hospitals in one week
By Missy Wilkinson
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate
NEW ORLEANS — Police became the ambulance-chasers after two separate thefts of the emergency vehicles in the last week from New Orleans-area hospitals.
The first theft happened late Thursday on Delachaise Street outside Touro Infirmary, New Orleans police said. An Emergency Medical Services driver called to report a suspicious person looking into vehicles. When officers arrived, the medic told them he'd dropped off his patient and returned to find his ambulance missing.
That vehicle surfaced early Friday morning in Central City. Tulane University Police Department officers saw it turn on Washington Avenue from South Claiborne Avenue.
Emergency lights on, the university officers tried to stop the ambulance to no avail, then chased at what they deemed a "safe speed" until the ambulance crashed into a pallet of bricks at Walmsley Avenue and State Street in Fontainebleau, according to university police.
Officers found the crashed ambulance with its front door open and nobody inside. No arrests were made as of late Tuesday, and the investigation is ongoing, said NOPD public information officer Karen Boudrie.
It happened again on Tuesday morning outside Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson Parish. Gone was a Mercedes-Benz sprinter unit, part of Acadian Ambulance Service's 650-unit fleet, said Randall Mann, vice president of marketing for Acadian.
"There were no patients on board, no medics," Mann said. "We're still investigating what led to it (being stolen)."
The ambulance was equipped with GPS, enabling agents with Louisiana State Police and the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office to track it to Interstate 55 at mile marker 25 near Hammond.
"We tracked the vehicle, they pulled it over," Mann said. The ambulance wasn't damaged, and nothing had been stolen, he added.
One suspect was booked with a stolen ambulance, though Tangipahoa Parish sheriff's officials declined to provide the individual's identity or the charges he faces.
New Orleans police said the two ambulance thefts appear to be unrelated.
Stolen ambulances aren't all that uncommon, said Mann. He estimates that Acadian logs two or three thefts per year, though it's been several months since the last one. Ambulance thefts often occur in the summer months, when units are left idling or with windows open, he said.
"Sometimes people think there are narcotics on board," he said. "Usually it is either a psychotic person or someone trying to get the hell away from the hospital."
Anyone with information about the thefts may call New Orleans police at (504) 658-5300 or call Crimestoppers anonymously at (504) 822-1111.