New York City's automated teller machine security legislation, which took effect in February, appears to have had little effect on ATM crime, according to yearend projections of a college professor who tracks ATM crime.

Each year since 1990, New York has seen an average of about 340 robberies or attempted robberies of customers at ATMs. The number in 1992 - 277 - was a three-year low.

Barry Schreiber, a criminal justice professor who publishes an ATM security newsletter, projects that 1993 will end with 324 ATM crimes in New York City. His prediction is based on Police Department data for the first four months of 1993.

|Only a Small Effect on Crime'

"The short-term indications are that the law has had only a small effect on ATM crime," said Mr. Schreiber, who teaches at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

While bankers and lawmakers agree that it will take a few years for the law's true effect to become evident, the numbers are nonetheless significant for this politically charged aspect of electronic banking.

Already the most stringent legislation of its kind, the New York law is likely to become more strict in the next few months as standards are established for the card-reading mechanisms that regulate entry into ATM sites.

Enterirg an ATM Site

Door-access standards were supposed to be part of the original legislation. But when bankers vehemently objected to the requirements set forth by the City Council, the lawmakers agreed to convene a task force to assess the viability of the various door-access technologies.

As originally envisioned by the council, the doors on all New York ATM sites would be equipped with card readers that would require consumers to insert a bank-issued ATM card and punch an identification number on a keypad in order to enter.

Such a requirement would presumably ensure that only authorized ATM users could gain access to ATM sites.

But bankers complained that the cost of installing and operating the technology to authorize personal identification numbers at the door of each ATM site would be exorbitant.

Doubts About Effectiveness

In addition, many bankers doubted whether the technology would keep unauthorized ATM site entrants from piggybacking into sites behind legitimate customers.

As the task force, which consists of bankers, technologists, and city representatives, prepares to present its opinions on the various access technologies to the City Council, sources say it appears as though bankers' arguments were well-founded.

"The task force has pretty much concluded that PIN-based entry doesn't make much sense," said a member of the task force, who requested anonymity.

Of the five access options before the group, sources say that readers that distinguish between bank cards and other types of plastic - such as college identification or department store cards - are receiving the most support.

Red-Flagging Stolen Cards

These readers would be able to identify a bank card by the first few digits on the magnetic stripe.

The task force, which is expected to give its findings to the City Council before the end of the year, is also considering an option that uses negative files of lost and stolen cards to ensure that only authorized users are entering ATM sites.

Bankers declined to estimate the cost of the various door access requirements.

But several large New York banks indicated they have spent an average of about $17,000 per ATM site to comply with the additional security requirements mandated for 1993.

There are currently about 2,500 ATMs in New York at about 1,000 different locations, according to figures from New York's dominant ATM network, NYCE, and its member financial institutions.

Though the access-control requirement promises to add to existing security costs, observers said bankers' relations with the lawmakers have nonetheless improved as the two sides have worked toward the goal of making ATMs safer.

"Over the course of the year, both sides have grown more familiar with each other," said Elizabeth Taylor, senior vice president at NYCE, which is owned by the New York Switch Corp., Hackensack, N.J.

"Everyone seems more committed to working in the spirit of the law."

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