The history of other cities is repeating itself in Atlanta, where a recent murder at an automated teller machine has prompted officials to call for improved ATM security.

The case, in which a doctor from Ireland was shot after using an ATM and then run over by the robber's car, calls to mind high-profile crimes in Chicago and New York that kicked off interest in legislation in each of those cities.

In Atlanta, Mayor Bill Campbell has assembled a task force composed of bankers, City Council members, and police officials to look for areas where banks can improve ATM security.

The task force is to report back to the mayor in 90 days.

"Our charge is to review the state of ATM safety and look for ways to improve it," said Thomas Coley, chairman and chief executive of SouthTrust Bank and a member of Mayor Campbell's task force.

"That may or may not include changes in legislation."

Georgia has ATM legislation on its books, patterned after a California measure that sets lighting standards and requires shrubbery around ATMs to be arranged in a way that enables consumers to see into a site.

Though the law does not mandate that ATMs be monitored by video cameras, Mr. Coley said many ATM sites in the Atlanta area have cameras.

In fact, in the murder case that served as inspiration for the formation of the task force, police are using footage from an ATM security camera in their pursuit of the murderer.

Observers said any attempt to add to ATM security mandates would have to be addressed through state, not local, law.

Possible additions to the existing law include requirements for video surveillance and for emergency buttons in ATM sites that can summon a 911 operator.

Bankers in Atlanta said ATM security is a hot topic with legislators eager to score points with their consumers, but the bankers are nonetheless eager to cooperate with city officials as they plot their course of action.

According to a recent survey from Synergistics Research Corp. in Atlanta, a majority of consumers expressed concern at the level of security at automated teller machines.

A "significant number" of consumers -- particularly females -- view a the number of secure ATMs as a differentiator among financial services providers.

The overwhelming majority of consumers do not, however, hold the bank responsible when a crime is committed at an ATM, according to the national survey.

Not surprisingly, ATM safety continues to be an issue in other cities.

In New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has backed a City Council bill that aims to prohibit "aggressive panhandling" within 20 feet of a city ATM.

Denounced as unconstitutional by opponents, the bill will come before the council's Public Safety Committee Nov. 30.

If signed into law, the bill would make panhandling near an ATM a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

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