NYCE, the dominant automated teller machine network in the New York area, launched a three-year advertising and educational campaign Monday aimed at improving ATM safety.

The campaign, including $2 million in advertising to be paid for by NYCE's New York City members, comes almost two years after the city council passed one of the nation's strictest ATM-security bills over bank lobbyists' resistance.

At a formal announcement ceremony at Chase Manhattan Corp. headquarters, NYCE and bank officials stressed that their campaign is part of the effort to comply with the spirit of the 1992 law. Its requirements include video cameras, rear-view mirrors, proper lighting, and sophisticated door-opening mechanisms that allow entry only to consumers with valid cards.

Politicians Approve

City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone and two of the council members who fought hardest to pass the bill - Walter McCaffrey and Ronnie Eldridge - were present Monday with words of appreciation for NYCE.

Mr. Vallone praised the campaign as "a perfect example of what a public-private partnership can do."

"The banking community and the city have taken significant steps to make ATMs safer to use," said Donald L. Boudreau, a Chase executive vice president and chairman of New York Switch Corp., the Hackensack, N.J.-based company that operates NYCE.

Says Users Must Help, Too

"But people play a critical role in the equation too." Mr. Boudreau said. "They must understand and practice safe. smart ATM usage."

Beginning this week. advertisements imparting safety tips like. "If you use an ATM at night, take a friend," will appear on several New York cable television channels and in the transit system.

In the next 12 weeks, two 30-second television commercials will air 895 times and six types of color posters will adorn 4,500 subway cars, 245 buses, and 120 bus shelters.

New York Humor

The television spots are slick and slightly comic. One closes with its central character quipping, "Your best defense [against ATM crime] is your mind - and really bad breath."

The cost of the advertising will be pro-rated among the banks, based on the number of ATMs each has in New York City. Of 13,200 NYCE ATMs in 25 states, 2,700 are within the city. There are also 1,764 Citibank machines in the process of being connected.

The educational effort was not required by the city's safety legislation.

Informal Trade for PIN Locks

Bankers committed to it last year as a good-will gesture, apparently hoping that the city council would ease the specification for automatic door-opening devices. Bankers did not want to have to install external PIN pads for entry of personal identification numbers.

While lawmakers made their preference for PIN-based mechanisms clear, they felt the combination of the less-secure door

openers and the advertising campaign would benefit consumers more than would the PIN-reading door locks alone.

"It has been pointed out that you can have technological improvements, but if the public fails to avail themselves of those [improvements] then they are defeating" the purpose of installing the new technology, said Mr. McCaffrey, a co-sponsor of the ATM security legislation.

The eventual compromise was significant in light of the antagonism between bankers and elected representatives during the law's formative stages.

Proclamation by Mayor

Confirming the relaxation of tensions, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani declared ATM Safety Awareness Week, beginning Monday.

"I specifically want to pay tribute to Don Boudreau, who made a commitment and kept it." Speaker Vallone said. "I think all the banks made a commitment and kept it. They said that they didn't want to pass anything that they couldn't comply with, and we got together on a task force and saw that it was truly possible to do what we wanted to do to make the ATMs safer for all the people in the city."

Neither the bankers nor legislators have offered any evidence attributing a decline in ATM crime to the law. Barry Schreiber, a criminal justice professor at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, said New York ATM crime in 1993 was slightly less than the average for the three previous years.

Several cities and states have passed or introduced ATM security bills, but none as stringent as New York City's. Some have been accompanied by consumer education programs, but industry observers say the New York campaign is by far the most ambitious to date.

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