The impetus for writing this article is a silly one, but it is at the same time extremely funny. As I was cruising through the living room the other day, I noticed my daughter was watching what looked like another stinker “B Horror Movie” on Netflix. This one, as best I could deduce, was about some really confused looking people who were trapped inside an ATM booth by (of course) the proto-typical psychopath wearing a hooded jacket. I will just tell you, from what I saw, the movie sucked, but take that with a grain of salt because, according to my daughter, I have bad taste in Horror movies. That taste being, I don’t watch them. Not because I find them scary or disturbing, or they give me bad dreams, they just annoy me. I mean I am that guy that yells instructions at the screen “OK, now Run!!!” “Don’t go over there and see if he is really dead…LEAVE!!” I also find it funny that none of these people ever have a firearm; and if they do, it ALWAYS run out of ammo. As I have told my daughter time and time again during these movies: “Having a gun right now would solve all these people’s problems.” Except of course for the para-normal movies, where you can’t shoot a ghost; but a Zombie flick? Oh Forget about it..Brain Shot!! Yeah, I am a fan of the Walking Dead.
OK, so getting back to harsh reality, let’s go over some REALISTIC safety procedures for the CO when he visits the ATM.
Before we get into the specifics, let me attempt to nip this issue in the bud right now: AVOID ATM’s if possible! If you know you are going to need cash, run by the bank ahead of time, even the Drive-Thru if you have too OR one of the best options overall, use the CASH BACK Feature on your Debit/Credit Card while you are at the grocery/convenience store…simple, easy, and extremely low risk! But, for those of you who don’t think ahead or just find yourself in need of cash in an inopportune time, here we go……
No matter the type of machine that you use, the #1 Skill-Set you need to exercise when going to the ATM is the most basic of them all: AWARENESS. Being aware of the general condition of the area, although most banks and entrepreneurs take care of this for you, it always pays to notice: is it well-lit? Has it been vandalized? These are sure-fire signs to move on! If you see something or someone who does not look right, keep moving; there are plenty of ATM’s, but only one of you.The one saving grace (in a manner of speaking) of ATM’s is almost all of them have internal cameras, so if there is an incident it will be recorded for posterity. A large percentage of ATM Robberies are solved because of this. Of course this does help you in the event of an incident, but the flip-side is criminals know that ATM’s are VERY HIGH RISK Ventures, and the ones that attempt it fail 98% of the time.
There are two basic types of ATM setups, the drive-thru setup and the pedestrian setup. The drive-thru set up is for vehicle traffic while the pedestrian set-up is typically a lone machine set off of a sidewalk, inside a convenient store, etc. There are also the “booth” setups (as portrayed in the above “B” stinker movie) though not as common, where you actually have to walk into a lobby like small building to use the machine.
The Drive-Thru version is going to be your most risk-averse method. The fact that you can stay in your LOCKED vehicle and transact your business through your vehicle window greatly improves the odds that you cannot be mugged and/or assaulted. Make it a point when you drive up, to get your vehicle AS CLOSE to the machine as possible, leaving no room for a would-be mugger to interfere. Keep the vehicle in gear if possible. If someone approaches and you don’t like it, Hit CANCEL and punch the gas.
The Pedestrian Version poses the most risk and is most exploitable by criminals. Browse through most YouTube vids of ATM robberies, and 98.9% of them are at pedestrian locations.The typical MO of crook’s that mug people at ATM’s is that they like to “stage up” away from the property. Like a wolf hunting sheep. They know that if they “hang” around the feeding ground, it will scare off their prey, so they will pick a place that gives them cover and wait. Stay aware of wooded areas, empty buildings, deserted cars, near the ATM machine; anything that could hide somebody. If you see anything remotely suspicious, find another ATM. The best option for these types of machines, is to use one INSIDE a business, like a convenience store. It is well lighted, there will typically be some people around (at bare minimum the register clerk) and the chances for robbery are slim.
OK, so we covered the approach. Let’s cover if the “Oh Shit” moment ever happens. Of course this is the hardest thing to train people for, since every situation is unique, but the General Rule Stands: In a Robbery, if all they want is money, give it to them! In most cases, the Bank to whom the ATM belongs treats the robbery as a FDIC Insured incident, so you will get your money back. Don’t ever try to be a Hero for Money.
Now, “What If” they want something other than money? I could speculate all night on that one, suffice to say, you will have to make that call yourself. This is why role-playing realistic training for these types of situations is so important, it helps you mentally rehearse the potential scenarios. For my CCL devotees out there, this is of extreme importance, mainly because it will FORCE you to work on your CQ/ECQ skill-sets, specifically integrating combative empty hand strikes to gain distance, disarming moves, etc.
As we discussed in a previous piece, anytime ECQ tactics are being rehearsed, WEAPON RETENTION needs to be the word (and skill-set) of the day. For these types of situations, using an empty hand strike to gain distance and then firing from a speed-rock or half-hip position is a good drill.
Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Above All, Stay Dangerous!