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<p>HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. -Credit Union Affiliates of New Jersey (CUANJ), its member credit unions and other financial institutions in the state are attempting to make two bills in the state’s House and Senate never see the light of day. The bills, A-1950 and S-1281, require the installation of an automatically activated 911 emergency system on all ATM machines. CUANJ says the cost involved in outfitting an ATM with 911 capability – estimates of up to $1,000 per machine – will prohibit credit unions, especially small ones, from installing new machines. It is expensive enough to get an ATM up and running, says Michael P. Horan, director of government affairs at CUANJ. More importantly, the New Jersey League feels that the 911 button may actually put victims in even greater danger. This concern is supported by the New Jersey State Association of Police Chiefs, which opposes both versions of the bill because they say they do not provide actual consumer protection and can actually do more harm than good. An example of the dangers of the 911 feature was expressed in the minority opposition to the Assembly bill, which was sponsored by Neil M. Cohen (D-20), chairman of the Banking & Insurance Committee. Submitted by Assemblymen Christopher Bateman (R-16) and Paul D’Amato (R-2), the opposition revealed that the card-activated 911 security system means that a victim being coerced to withdraw cash would have to take actions beyond those of a normal ATM transaction in order to notify law enforcement agencies. “This would certainly be observed by the assailant in the course of the robbery, thus subjecting the victim to retaliation by the assailant,” report the assemblymen. Alternatively, the victim would have to stay at the machine after the robbery to again utilize the card to activate the security system, thus remaining in a dangerous environment for a period of time after the attack, contrary to common security practices. The minority opposition also states that currently, an assailant would not find it necessary to gain possession of a card after the attack, but since the 911 system would be card activated, he or she has more incentive to forcibly obtain the card from the victim and keep it. One of the first financial institutions in the state to install a 911 emergency system was United Teletech Federal Credit Union, Tinton Falls, N.J. In the early `90s, the credit union’s board decided to install a 911 system in its ATM as a member safety precaution. President Leo Ardine today sees no benefit to the feature. Since its installation, it has been used twice: once by a kid who was fooling around, and another time by a curious patron. The credit union also had trouble with the ATM manufacturer who said it would not honor its original warrantee because the machine was tampered with due to the installation. Another setback was the change of Tinton Falls’ 911 system from a local- to a county-wide system, meaning that calls from the button would be routed to the county and then back to the local level, causing a delay in police response. The impetus of the assembly bill was Assemblyman Cohen himself, due to a number of his constituents being held up at ATMs. The difference in the Assembly bill and the Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale, (D-19), is that the former would exempt the 911 system at ATMs in high-traffic areas, such as department stores. The Senate version, meanwhile, calls for all ATMs in all locations to have the feature. CUANJ is against both bills, but it is even more opposed to the Senate bill. According to Horan, since many credit unions have specialized memberships, many of their ATMs are in high-traffic areas. He gives as examples: health care employee credit unions which have ATMs in hospitals; Merck Federal Credit Union which has an ATM within Merck headquarters; and any credit union with a community charter that decides to place an ATM in a convenience store. These are high-traffic areas, says Horan. At press-time, the Senate bill was sitting in the Commerce Committee. The Assembly bill has been approved by the Banking & Insurance Committee. CUANJ is advising members to call their legislators in opposition to the bills, and has faxed information to members with talking points against the legislation. A similar bill is introduced by Scott Stringer (D-Upper West Side) was passed by the Assembly on March 18 and is sitting in the Senate Banking Committee. According to information from Stringer’s office, not all police organizations are opposed to the technology. The National Association of Chiefs of Police, the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) have endorsed the system. Based on information by North American Communications Corp., Biloxi, Miss., who manufacture the SafeAlert 911 system, a number of credit unions throughout the country like the feature. The company says that ever since Tucson Employees Credit Union, Arizona, installed the safety device at two of its ATMs, it has seen an increase in both transactions and the number of ATM cards issued. A year after installation, the credit union went from 4,200 cards issued to 5,500. The SafeAlert system, as a description of how the 911-ATM technology works, has a button mounted through the faceplate of the ATM. A speaker and microphone are attached under the surface. When the system is activated, the ATM user enters into two-way communications with a 911 dispatcher. A study by BAI Global estimates that one ATM crime is committed for every two million transactions nationwide, or 5,500 per year. [email protected]</p>

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