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Police Station ATMs: Going to Extremes? : The City Council Has Endorsed the Proposal, but There Are Other Alternatives

May 09, 1993

Unfortunately, there are no firm numbers available in the San Fernando Valley, or in the city or county of Los Angeles as a whole, on the number of robberies that have been committed against people using automated bank teller machines. Police do not as a rule separate such numbers from their overall robbery statistics.

But enough is known to acknowledge that there is cause for concern that crooks might have begun to target the unwary automated teller customer. For that reason, the possible introduction of such machines in police station lobbies should not be laughed off as thoroughly ridiculous.

Robert Johansen, a detective in the Los Angeles Police Department, notes for example that seven ATM robberies have occurred in the West Valley Division since January, six of them after 8:30 p.m.

The most shocking of the reported incidents involved Sherri Foreman, a pregnant 29-year-old woman, who was fatally stabbed during a carjacking outside a bank in Sherman Oaks on March 30.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council responded with unanimous support for studying the idea of ATMs at police stations. The vote was in response to a proposal by Councilman Hal Bernson that called for such machines at the Devonshire Division in Northridge, and in an as-yet-unselected inner city station.

Notable among the supporters of this concept are Van Nuys Municipal Judge Michael S. Luros, who originally broached the idea, and LAPD Deputy Chief Mark A. Kroeker, who directs police operations in the Valley. Bankers have neither enthusiastically embraced the idea nor condemned it.

"Unusual times call for unusual measures," was how one representative of the California Bankers Assn. put it.

We are not discouraging consideration of this idea, but we do have a question: Is this really necessary? In all probability, the answer is no. For those who need to get cash after dark, there are already considerable options, such as the teller machines that are located at any number of convenience stores and grocery stores that maintain late or all-night hours.

A common-sense approach should be stressed as well. People survived easily enough before the advent of automated teller machines, when the only people who worried about robberies at banks after sunset were merchants making night deposits.

Folks did their banking during the daytime then. And it would seem to make more sense, for those truly fearful of crime at teller machines at night, to take more cash from those machines during the day than they need. That might reduce the number of times in which people are warily eyeing the environs of teller machines at night, wondering if they might be robbed.

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