Citing her own recent experience with ATM crime, a New York City Council member is advocating stricter security requirements for bank machines.

Ronnie Eldridge - a council member from Manhattan's Upper West Side who lost a small amount of cash to her assailant - has introduced a bill that would set specific requirements for suveillance cameras, security mirrors, and visibility at ATM sites.

If the ATM security measures are passed, New York would have the most comprehensive requirements of any city in the nation.

Ms. Eldridge said she hopes other cities follow New York's lead.

A Leadership Position

"When I was robbed at an ATM, I was surprised by the relative indifference of the bank [to security]" said Ms. Eldridge, who is married to New York newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin and was first elected in 1989.

"After a little investigation, I found it was a citywide problem, and I decided to do something about it."

The investigation to which Ms. Eldridge refers consisted of a survey by the Office of Legislative Oversight and Investigation of almost one-third of New York City's 716 automated teller machine sites.

The survey found that while lighting and visibility of the ATM fro mthe street was adequate in most cases, the interiors of nearly 40% of the sites allowed a person to hide undetected by customers, and were thus deemed "dangerous."

22% Have Security Cameras

In addition, the survey teams found that only 22% of the indoor ATMs had security cameras to record transaction activity in the area.

And 25% of the sites contained no means for customers to communicate to security personnel in an emergency.

Much of the city council's bill targets these areas for renovations.

Among the requirements: two cameras per site and ATM-enclosure access devices that distinguish bank cards from other types of plastic with magnetic stripes.

Also, the law would prohibit the installation of any new outdoor units.

Banks Have Different View

Some New York City banks oppose the legislation, claiming that vying for business in the most competitive retail market in the nation, New York's banks are already having a hard time squeezing profit from their automated operations.

Bankers also cite the additional costs they will incur under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires ATM site renovations to accommodate the disabled.

"It's a case of too much burden at one time," said John Leiponis, president of Nationwide EFT Services Inc., New York. "Sure, ATM security is an issue, but I'm not sure this is the best time to be requiring banks to take on new technology investments unless there is a proven need for them."

Scorecard Is Given

In New York in the last 20 months, there have been 630 reported ATM crimes, including robberies and vandalism.

Bankers, who asked not to be identified, said the number of such crimes is very low compared to the total number of roberies in the city.

In addition, they question whether the proposed law would actually deter ATM crime.

For example, the bill aims to outlaw the installation of any new outdoor ATMs, but according to several New York area banks, the incidence of crime at those machines is lower than at indoor units.

In addition, there is a body of independent data that contradicts Ms. Eldridge's assertion that ATM-related crime is on the rise.

Little Change Recorded

According to the Electronic Funds Transfer Association's report on ATM security in the 1990's, the rate of ATM-related crime has changed little since 1984 - when one violent crime was reported per 3.4 million transactions.

To weigh the pros and cons of specific measures and sort out these disagreements, bankers are asking for more time.

"We're not against spending more money for customer security, but we would like to see a more in-depth investigation of the matter," said Ken Mills, a spokesman for Chase Manhattan Bank.

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