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Seen At 11: Why Some Banks Won't Invest In ATM Panic Buttons

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- If you have ever withdrawn money from an ATM, you have probably felt the need to look over your shoulder – and with good reason.

As CBS2's Christine Sloan reported, thousands of ATM-related crimes are reported each year. So why wouldn't the banking industry agree to install a simple panic button that could alert authorities if a customer needs assistance?

Some ATM robberies have left customers seriously injured. Other victims, like 24-year-old Amy Lord, have been killed.

Surveillance photo captured her last moments as she withdrew money from a Massachusetts ATM in 2013.

More than 15 years ago, David Breen was also robbed at an ATM -- this one in Manhattan. The suspect pulled out a gun and shot him.

Today, he is shocked nothing has been done to help improve consumer safety.

"Disappointment would be the obvious word, but it's anger too," Breen said.

Some states, among them New York, require banks to provide extra lighting at ATMs, as well as maintain landscaping, but Comptroller Scott Stringer says that's just not enough.

"When I was in the state Assembly more than a decade ago, I introduced legislation that would require banks to have panic buttons," Stringer said.

The panic buttons are simple to use. If in distress, a person just presses the "911" button and a dispatcher would be alerted to the emergency.

The dispatcher is able to hear the caller through the ATM machine, as well as any other sounds and conversations up to 20 feet away.

Larry Steelman is the creator of one such panic button called ATM 911. But you would be hard-pressed to find his system at any banks in the Tri-State Area.

CBS2 had to drive to Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania -- about 2 hours away -- to find an ATM the system.

"Most of our systems have been installed on credit unions and small community banks," Steelman said.

Steelman said most major banks do not want to pay to have the system appalled.

So, why won't the banking industry agree to install a simple panic button that could alert authorities if a customer needs assistance?

The American Banking Association said cost is not the concern -- the industry isn't convinced panic buttons keep consumers safer.

An Association representative told CBS2's Sloan that pressing a panic button may only agitate an attacker -- putting the customer in even greater danger.

"If there is a bad guy trying to get your money, just give it to him," John Jay College of Criminal Justice criminologist Joe Giacalone said.

Experts say be aware of your surroundings, but don't risk your life.

The banking industry also pointed out that ATM crimes are relatively rare when compared to the number of trouble-free transactions, with only one crime per 3.5 million transactions.

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