ATM Security at Sites In New York Held Lax

A study commissioned by New York City Council members has found that most local automated teller machine sites have minimal security.

Among the findings, disclosed Monday at a hearing on a proposed ATM security bill, was that any card with a magnetic stripe -- including a gasoline or department store credit card -- opens the outer doors of all but one of the 231 ATM locations surveyed.

The sponsors of the bill commissioned the study of the use and adequacy of surveillance cameras, doors, locks, mirrors, and security guards.

Million-Dollar Tab

The bill would require banks to install some of these security features citywide. To meet the requirements for 150 branches, Citicorp would have to spend between $1 million and $1.5 million, according to a city council official.

The sites visited in the study belonged to 21 banks, but four banks combined -- Chase Manhattan Bank, Citibank, Chemical Bank, and Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co. -- owned more than half the sites.

The study was conducted over a two-week period last month. About 90% of the sites visited were indoors; the bill would prohibit new outdoor sites.

The task force making the visits found that no bank met the requirements of the bill as it stands.

The Crime Tally

A total of 630 crimes were committed at ATM locations over the past 21 months, according to New York City Police Department statistics.

The study found that fewer than a quarter of the sites -- 22% -- had cameras to photograph ATM transactions.

Of the sites with cameras, about 37% posted signs saying a surveillance camera was operating. Advocates of the bill said such signs may help deter crime.

About 40% of the sites had corners or other areas where a potential criminal could hide. Of these sites, only 6%, owned by 13 banks, had mirrors of the type used in elevators to allow customers to see into corners from outside.

Broken Locks

A quarter of the sites had broken locks on the outer doors, so that a card was unnecessary to gain access.

At all sites except for one belonging to European American Bank, any kind of card with a magnetic stripe would open the door.

Installing technology that could distinguish a bank card from others at the outer door would be extremely costly, said John F. Lee, president of the New York Clearing House Association.

He told the council that in shared networks such as NYCE, the technology would have to be extremely sophisticated.

In another study finding, 29% of the ATM sites had reflective mirrors or panels on the machine itself, so that a customer using the machine could see if someone approached from behind. Five percent of the sites had lighting deemed inadequate.

Mr. Lee said that in the first nine months of 1991, there has been one crime per 3.2 million ATM transactions in New York.

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