The Veterans Administration's Security Force and Crime at VA Medical Centers

Gao ID: 115773 July 15, 1981

Crime at Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Centers has been rising steadily with the nature of offenses committed covering the full spectrum of crimes against individuals, property crimes, and substance abuse. VA relies primarily on its police force for crime prevention and for the protection of patients, staff, visitors, and property at its medical centers. The inability to recruit enough qualified police and to come to grips with high police turnover makes it difficult for VA to maintain an effective crime deterrent. These severe and longstanding problems of attracting, recruiting, and retaining quality police officers are caused by the Office of Personnel Managment (OPM) police series classification standards and low pay of police officers. OPM recognizes these problems and has established a study group to determine the feasibility and desirability of establishing a separate special occupational service for protective service occupations in the Federal Government. An additional problem may be the limited training VA police receive and the time when this training is provided. For its investigations, VA generally relies on four regional security officers who perform needed investigations at any of the medical centers and on about 27 detectives stationed at certain centers that employ them. The four regional officers investigate situations when called in by the center directors. VA also attempts to enlist outside help for its investigations. However, while local police and Federal agencies may be called on in certain situations, the assistance they provide is limited. With few in-house investigative resources and limited outside help, improvements are called for if the VA crime problem is to be controlled. Suggested improvements include: (1) more undercover operations need to be conducted; (2) training could be strengthened and given in a more timely manner; and (3) detectives could be assigned at the medical district level rather than to individual medical centers to provide added coverage to those centers that currently have no on-site investigative capability.

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.