The city police on Thursday instructed banks to spruce up security systems at ATMs. They contend that most of the 3,000 ATMs in Chennai lack proper guards and secure access systems.
Since the shocking incident of the 44-year-old woman being attacked inside an ATM in Bangalore came to light, the city police have been holding meetings with bank officials and sending out broad guidelines that they hope the banks and the security agencies, to which ATM security is outsourced, will implement.
Residents however point out that ATM security faces several challenges — absence of trained security guards, lack of a secure access system and non-functional CCTV cameras. They recall that in recent years, some ATMs in the city have been vandalised.
In September, three drunken men damaged two ATMs in Triplicane after picking a fight with a security guard.
R. Jayasekhar, a retired bank official and resident of Madipakkam, said the biggest concern was that entry to ATMs was not secure. Though several ATMs have restricted access, requiring a card swipe for entry, the facility in most of them is under repair. “The security guard is away or asleep most times,” he said.
Ranjitha Sivapathy, a sales employee with a firm in Cathedral road, said she avoids using ATMs in the suburbs mainly because they are dimly-lit and have no guards.
Lack of trained security guards is a concern too. With only a few banks insisting on an age proof and medical certificate for recruiting the guards, it is easy to get the job.
Divya Murali, Indian Security Services, said when ATMs started mushrooming a few years ago, there were at least 70 security agencies in the city that provided training but now, there are hardly ten. Security agencies claim to impart three-day training to the guards. But none of the guards interviewed said they had received any training.
Some guards have the fear of getting assaulted. “During nights when drunken men come here and get abusive, I don’t know what to do,” said R. Nedumaran (71), an ATM security guard in R. A. Puram.
State Bank of India officials said they have instructed security guards at ATMs not to permit people wearing masks and helmets to enter ATMs.
“We also request elderly people to take someone along when they access ATMs in remote areas,” an official said.
The police said patrol teams will visit ATMs during the nights to check if security guards are awake and alert. Banks have to ensure that their access systems in ATMs allow only persons with a proper bank card into the ATM cell, said an officer.