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Corporate responsibility

Holdups at automatic teller machines, once a rarity, now occur at a rate so alarming police are advising customers how to use the machines to maximize safety. The sense of urgency escalated this week when a Tampa man was shot in the face by three young men who robbed him.

Some local banks are turning customers into easy targets by failing to take reasonable corporate responsibility for conditions around their ATMs.

The machine at which Charles Cecil was shot last Sunday evening was at a Nations- Bank branch at Busch Boulevard and 52nd Street in Tampa. A security camera that might have recorded the crime was inexplicably missing from its receptacle within the ATM. A floodlight that usually illuminated the machine wasn't working, and the ATM was partly shielded from view from the road by trees and heavy shrubbery. But this ATM can be singled out only because of the crime committed there. The poor security conditions are not uncommon around the Tampa Bay area.

When customers approach ATMs, chances are good they are about to get cash. Standing with their back to the world, and often alone, they are easy marks for armed robbers. Lax security is only asking for more trouble more often.

As convenience store chains were forced to accept a level of corporate responsibility for the safety of customers and employees, so, too, should banks accept greater responsibility for ATM security.

For their part, ATM users need to exercise common sense and think twice about using machines in dark, secluded locations. Prudence should dictate making after-dark visits to all-night grocery stores that have ATMs either inside, or just outside the main doors.