Lack of security guards at certain ATMs could lead to a repeat of Bangalore incident

A large number of automated teller machines (ATM) installed in various parts of the city do not have security guards posted outside them and offer little security to the public, bankers in the city admit.

As a robbery at an ATM that left a woman in a hospital bed in Bangalore earlier this week brought to focus the lack of safety in most ATMs, Kochi city police commissioner K.G. James said he would issue directions to all banks in the city to ensure security in their ATMs.

Banks post security guards only at select ATMs to cut costs. ATMs at other locations simply go unguarded, leaving potential robbers with open access to customers using the machines. Bankers in the city, however, say that posting guards outside ATMs would not do much to improve security.

“The law-and-order situation should improve to prevent crimes of this nature. Security guards will only partially address the main challenges,” said P.G. Jayakumar, managing director and chief executive officer of Dhanalaxmi Bank. Mr. Jayakumar said a person could enter his bank’s ATMs only once they swiped their card at the entrance, and that this could help prevent attacks inside the ATM.

Most banks pick a few ATMs at locations they identify as potentially high-risk areas to post security guards. While some banks employ guards to man the ATMs round-the-clock, others post guards only at night.

“Even if we do appoint guards, a group of robbers could easily overpower him and take the money. Even banks are attacked by robbers despite the high security arrangements. It is the policing that has to improve,” said a banker in the city.

Anil Kumar Gupta, general manager of the State Bank of India, said security cameras installed in ATMs acted as a deterrent to attacks on people withdrawing money at ATMs. “We try to ensure that all cameras are functional. They deter people from trying to rob people. But stray incidents such as the one at Bangalore, though painful, do happen occasionally,” said Mr. Gupta. He said the incident should prompt the authorities to think of what could be done to improve security at ATMs.

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