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Councilman wants "duress system" at ATMs in wake of teen's murder

September 1, 2009 |  4:09 pm

Atm Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith today called for the installation of a PIN "duress code" system at bank ATM machines throughout the city, saying such a system might have saved the life of a teen murdered after a robbery attempt July 24.

Smith said at least one software manufacturer already has developed such a system, a covert code an ATM customer can use to alert authorities to trouble by having an emergency code embedded in the card. Under the system Smith described, a customer can enter the card's PIN number in reverse order. The cash would still be disbursed, so as not to alert the robber, but police could be notified covertly that a robbery was in progress and where.

Such a system would cost banks approximately $25 to install, said Smith, whose proposal was sent to the council's Public Safety Committee for study.

Smith said he made the proposal after Lily Burk, 17, was abducted while running an errand for her mother. The suspect in her murder, a parolee who had been given a day pass from a halfway house, drove her around and forced her to attempt to get money from ATMs before he killed her later in the day.  He was arrested shortly afterward.

--Jean Merl

Photo: ATMs at the Bank Of America Plaza branch, February 05, 2009. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times