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Los Angeles councilman wants ATM 'duress code' system

In the wake of Lily Burk's slaying, Greig Smith urges citywide anti-robbery effort. Under one system, ATM users could enter their PIN backward to covertly notify police that they were being robbed.

September 02, 2009|Jean Merl

Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith on Tuesday called for the installation of a PIN "duress code" system at automated teller machines throughout the city, saying such a system might have saved the life of a teenager who was killed after a July 24 robbery attempt.

"The tragic murder of Lily Burk has highlighted a significant public safety issue -- ATM security," Smith said in introducing his proposal. "Currently, ATM security measures are relatively limited."

Smith said at least one software manufacturer has already developed a promising system, a covert code that ATM customers can use to alert authorities to trouble. Under the system Smith described, a customer could enter the card's PIN in reverse order. The cash would still be disbursed, so as not to alert the robber, but police would be notified that a robbery was in progress and where.

Such a system would cost banks approximately $25 per machine to install, said Smith, whose proposal was sent to the council's Public Safety Committee for study.

"Requiring banks to install some sort of PIN duress system would ensure that ATM users could safely and covertly alert law enforcement that they are being robbed," Smith said.

Smith said he began crafting the proposal after Burk, 17, was abducted. The suspect in her slaying, a parolee who had been given a day pass from a drug rehabilitation center, drove her around and forced her to attempt to get money from ATMs before he allegedly killed her.

Charles Samuel, 50, was arrested shortly afterward and has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and murder charges.

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jean.merl@latimes.com

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