Banking on bandit barriers: Bill would make them mandatory in city


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By Frank Lombardi

Bank stickups will be the talk of City Hall on Monday.

With the backing of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the City Council is moving ahead with a bill to mandate that all 1,698 bank branches in the city erect “bandit barriers” around their tellers.

The bill specifies that bullet resistant barriers or partitions be installed to prevent individuals from getting access “to the protected area where the tellers transact business.”

Failure to erect such barriers will carry a fine of up to $1,500 for each violation, plus an additional fine of as much as $1,500 if the violation isn’t corrected and a $1,000 fine for each day the violation goes uncorrected.

Many banks do have such barriers, but the tougher ballistic standards required in the bill might force them to build new ones.

Banking industry officials will get a chance to sound off at a public hearing this morning being held at City Hall by the Council’s Public Safety Committee.

The bill was prompted by a 26% spike in bank robberies during the first quarter of this year, on top of the 57% increase in robberies last year over the prior year.

However, industry officials report that the robbery rate has fallen since March. A total of 135 robberies were reported through June 23, compared with 192 for the same period last year – a drop of 30%.

In the past, Kelly has expressed special concern about the bank branches now owned by TD Bank, which acquired Commerce Bank last year. The 73 TD/Commerce Bank branches around the city were hit by robbers 46 times last year.

None of the TD Bank branches have bandit barriers; the lack of them is intended to give customers a more inviting atmosphere.

Lawrence Sherman, a criminologist who is a consultant for TD Bank, said, “Not one customer or employee has been injured in the course of a robbery” at any TD/Commerce branch in the city since they began operating in 2001.

But the bill’s main sponsor, Councilman Oliver Koppell (D-Bronx), blasted TD Bank’s lack of barriers, saying: “Chase branches all have the barriers; so do Citibank’s. It’s crazy they are so adamant” about not having them.

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