While exterior ATMs and night depositories offer convenience and easy access, security should be a primary concern to keep customers safe. Incidents of crime can have an impact from a brand reputation and liability perspective with lasting repercussions. Since there are no federal laws and regulations in only 13 states, the onus is upon credit unions to establish processes that deter crime as much as possible.
Parameters for the policy should include systematic inspections of the functionality of exterior lighting and the implementation of a regular maintenance schedule of fixtures surrounding ATM and night depositories. It is also important to record and document the various inspections and maintenance performed so these efforts can be easily referenced, reviewed and evaluated. This information can be critical for any potential legal action to substantiate that the institution took every reasonable measure to create a safe business environment for customers.
This policy should also factor in crime statistics in and around the neighborhood. If violent crime is a regular occurrence additional safety measures should be carefully considered. In some instances, a crime might have already occurred on a property and reported to law enforcement but not the credit union which can have an impact on safety procedures. Thorough due diligence on the credit union’s part regarding current crime levels can reveal where potential threats lie.
Having a formalized safety policy and procedure in place is an important first step, but there must be a practical application to make it effective. To make these measures a success, keep the following action items in mind.
Visibility. Seeing and being seen throughout the course of transaction is crucial. As such, it’s important to keep the area around a drive-thru or walk-up ATM/night depository clear from obstructions, such as overgrown foliage or large signage, which can provide a hiding place for criminals. There should also be clear sightlines, so customers can easily see when they are being approached to offer the opportunity to terminate a transaction, leave or call for help. Likewise, a passerby could see a crime taking place and alert authorities.
Lighting. Having adequate lighting for security seems obvious, but is often overlooked as long as a bulb is operational. But it’s wise to analyze the details. Fixtures, especially on the exterior, should be regularly cleaned to ensure they are as bright as possible. The way lighting is configured should be reviewed as well. Positioning fixtures in a way that creates “light islands,” with vast surrounding swaths of dark and shadows is not recommended. Lights mounted on poles as opposed to surfaces helps mitigate this issue.
Lighting is an aspect of security that is taken very seriously by lawmakers. In fact, some states have specific regulations mandating minimum lighting requirements at ATMs/night depositories. Recent innovations, such as LED, are gaining popularity to help make lighting more efficient from an operational and cost standpoint. This technology achieves brightness levels that last much longer than conventional lighting, with less energy consumption.
Evaluation. Grounds should be regularly inspected to check for missing or non-functional lights and overgrown landscaping. Be sure to evaluate the facility at night. Deficiencies will be more obvious and appropriate action can be taken when it’s dark.
For liability purposes, it is recommended that these activities be documented and logged into a database so they can be easily referenced to gauge the frequency and thoroughness of inspections. If a robbery does occur, it will be important to reinforce that a bank took safety seriously and had processes in place to support safety.
The ultimate goal for this process is to protect individuals from harm. A residual benefit is creating an inviting location that entices customers to frequent and conduct business. By making visibility and lighting a priority for ATMs and night depositories, reinforced by a formal process and regular documented inspections, credit unions can forge stronger customer retention and attract new business, all while improving safety.