Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses to Robbery at ATMs

The table below summarizes the responses to robbery at automated teller machines, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

General Considerations for an Effective Strategy
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
1Imposing mandatory minimum security standards Requires financial institutions to adopt certain measures to prevent ATM robbery…there are adequate resources to inspect ATMs for compliance and sanctions to enforce regulationsMust be sure local regulations are not preempted by state law; regulations should be specific enough to be effective without stifling potentially more effective innovations
2Using civil liability Concerns for civil liability encourage financial institutions to adopt measures to prevent ATM robberystate law governing civil liability is reasonably favorable to plaintiffsPolice typically play little role in civil actions
Altering Lighting, Landscaping and Location
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
3Ensuring adequate lighting at and around ATMs Enables ATM users to see suspicious people, and potentially deters offendersa qualified lighting designer plans the lightingSome jurisdictions have mandated minimum lighting standards, but most minimum standards do not address the full range of lighting factors that affect visibility
4Ensuring the landscaping around ATMs allows for good visibility Removes potential hiding places for offenders, enables ATM users to see suspicious people, and enables passersby to observe crimes in progressslow-growing shrubbery is planted and landscaping is regularly monitored and maintainedATM operators must balance the desire to make ATM sites attractive through landscaping against security considerations
5Installing mirrors on ATMsAllows users to see suspicious people and behavior behind themmirrors are properly maintained and ATM users become accustomed to using themVulnerable to vandalism; robberies may occur too suddenly to allow victims to take any preventive action
6Installing ATMs where there is a lot of natural surveillance Increases the probability that witnesses will observe crimes in progress and assist victims, summon assistance or identify offenders; and deters offendersthere is high traffic volume during times when the risk of robbery is high, and witnesses are willing and able to assist victimsSome locations with high traffic, such as street drug markets, do not provide reliable witnesses
7Installing ATMs in police stationsEnables ATM users to obtain cash in a protected environmentpolice stations can accommodate the increase in foot and vehicle trafficMay be feasible to operate ATMs in police stations only during nighttime hours, when other demands on the police are lower
Implementing Public Awareness and Education Initiatives
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
8Relocating, closing or limiting the hours of operation of ATMs at high-risk sites Removes the opportunity for robbery in areas where or at times when the risk is highATM operators can reliably establish area risk levels through close consultation with local policeA simple review of an area's total crime rate is inadequate to determine ATM robbery risks; viable alternatives for accessing ATMs should be available for people in high-risk areas
9Providing ATM users with safety tips Increases the liklihood that ATM users will avoid risky behavior that can lead to robberysafety tips are simple to understand, and communicated often and through various means to become part of ATM users' basic safety consciousnessATM operators may be hesitant to call too much attention to robbery risks for fear of discouraging customers from using ATMs
Using Surveillance
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
10Installing and monitoring surveillance cameras at and around ATMs Enhances the ability of police to identify offenders, and potentially deters offenderscameras surveil both the area immediately in front of the ATM screen and the area around the ATM, camera lenses are not exposed to direct sunlight, and cameras and recording mechanisms are routinely monitored and maintainedDummy cameras should not be used except as a decoy to active cameras; cameras should be mounted high enough to discourage vandalism and be sturdy enough to withstand attempts to vandalize them
11Installing devices to allow victims to summon police during a robberyEnables robbery victims to summon assistancepolice have the resources to quickly respond to panic alarmsSome devices are vulnerable to vandalism; will likely increase the volume of false alarms to which police must respond; victims often lack the opportunity or ability to activate alarms during a robbery
12Deploying private security guards at ATMs Deters offenders and increases the likelihood that robberies will be observed and interrupted, or offenders will be identifiedsecurity guards are stationed at high-risk locationsCostly for ATM operators
Targeting Offenders
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
13Controlling street drug markets Potentially reduces the demand for drugs and, in turn, the demand for cash to purchase them; and incapacitates drug users who are likely to commit ATM robberiesthe link between local street drug markets and ATM robberies can be establishedRequires a substantial commitment of police and other resources
14Targeting repeat offendersIncapacitates offenders who commit or are likely to commit the most ATM robberiesthe contribution of repeat offenders to local ATM robberies can be established, and established principles and methods of repeat offender programs are appliedRequires a substantial commitment of police and other criminal justice system resources; requires accurate and timely intelligence
15Prohibiting loitering and panhandling near ATMs Provides police authority to remove potential offenders from potential victimslegislation is enacted, and police are willing and able to enforce the lawsLegislation must be carefully drafted to meet constitutional challenges; police are unlikely to be present just before a robbery
Hardening Targetsand Denying Benefits
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
16Requiring that ATMs be located in enclosed vestibules with doors that locksMakes it more difficult for offenders to surprise ATM usersobjects do not obstruct visibility into and out of vestibules, and door locks are regularly monitored and maintainedAdded cost to ATM operators; ATM users habitually allow others to enter vestibules with them; door locks are often vandalized; some door locks can be opened with any magnetized plastic card; victims can become trapped with an offender in a vestibule; homeless people may use vestibules for shelter
17Setting daily cash-withdrawal limits Reduces the benefit to offenders, potentially reducing the likelihood they will incur the risk to obtain small amounts of cashoffenders expect to get a lot of cash from a robbery, justifying the risk of apprehensionEspecially around street drug markets where the demand for small amounts of cash is strong and immediate, offenders are unlikely to be deterred by small expected gains from robbery; ATM users must be willing to accept the cash withdrawal limits