The empty building hypothetical redux

Joe Zingher earned is law degree in 1990 from the University of Illinois College of Law and practice law for 10 years. He’s a software developer.

If you do a Google news search for “ATM” and “murder” you’ll find a great many examples of the “express kidnapping,” which is essentially an abduction and forced ATM withdrawal followed by a murder to prevent the card from being reported stolen.  It usually begins as a carjacking or a home invasion.  The victim is rarely attacked at the ATM, almost always taken there.  It’s a lot like the “empty building” hypothetical from first-year torts used to illustrate intentional harm.

Express kidnappings have plagued the banking industry since the ATM was introduced in 1968.  The police categorize the crime as a form of robbery which means it gets lumped in with a couple hundred thousand crimes each year, which hides the extent of the problem keeping it out of sight and out of mind.

Police have been calling for the crime trend to be tracked since 1987 when House Resolution 785 was introduced.  HR785 would have had the FBI track the problem and evaluate such things as emergency PIN systems for victims to use.  HR785 was referred to an ad hoc committee on constitutional rights and died there.  In 1989, there was a high-profile murder in Chicago, Dana Feitler, which resulted in a police study and recommendation that the problem be tracked by the police.  The law that was passed Title 4, Chapter 4 Section 305 required ATM owners to report crimes at their ATMs to the City Clerk’s office for some reason instead of the police.  Although hundreds of crimes were reported yearly, nothing ever came of it and the issue was forgotten. In 1996, the ATM Security Act was proposed, which set non-mandatory standards for ATM safety and superseded Chicago’s home rule ordinance.

In 2005, House Bill 4155 which would have made forced ATM withdrawals a distinct felony, allowing the crime statisticians to track the problem by the normal means, the crime code section.  Because that bill was blocked in committee, and no similar bill was ever passed, seven years of data were lost. Then again in 2009, HB1963 was proposed, which was also blocked in committee.  And now three years of data are lost.

This is no small oversight.  Those laws would have allowed the police to connect Murder A to Murder B which would have led to an arrest before Murder C occurred.  That law would have also exposed the extent of the problem to the public.  So, if you’re the head of marketing, how many murders each year make you jump up and down yelling “Hooray!”?  In all logic, the banks should have been demanding such a law decades ago.

Computerization caught up to the problem.  Thanks to improved software such as ICLEAR, the police can finally do a simple word search through their files for “ATM” and overlay crime codes for murder, abduction, rape, robbery, missing persons-foul play and backtrack through their records for the data.

Rockford PD records show that of the last 120 murders there, from Jan. 1, 2006 to Nov. 3, 2011, 10 murders involved ATMs.  That’s 1 in 12 murders.  Extrapolating to the rest of the state, in 2010, there were 59 murders where the ATM was involved.  That doesn’t include victims who didn’t have ATM cards but were attacked in the mere hope they did making the ATM a public danger, not just a danger to people willing to risk carrying an ATM card.

9 responses to “The empty building hypothetical redux

  1. Good job Joe, you made your case but now will lawmakers listen? Good luck to you.

  2. Very well put Joe ! The people of this state need more advocates like you ! Please run for congress ! Good luck and continued success with this matter.

  3. The lawmakers seem more interested in protecting the banks than protecting the public. Wish it weren’t so.

  4. this is an important issue; it must not be ignored
    Mistakenly, most would assume that the crime of murder where ATM is concerned would occur in close sequence to the site of the ATM; not so, obviously. Kidnapping is the greater crime: money merely a sidebar.

  5. AS more information has come to light, it appears that forced ATM withdrawals associated with murders account for at least 3 of the 104 murders in Rockford from Jan 1 2007 to Jan 1 2012 or 2.89%. This works out to at least 20 murders statewide. This excludes a crime that begins after a voluntary withdrawal, it does not include cases where the victim had no ATM card and it does not include homicides where the victim was killed before a withdrawal could occur.

  6. I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your information. This article has truly peaked my interest. I’m going to take a note of your blog and keep checking for new information about once per week. I opted in for your Feed as well.

  7. It’s nearly impossible to find well-informed people for this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  8. For those of you with a conspiratorialk bent, shortly after the failure of HB3914 in the Senate, (after passing the House unanimously), the proponent. Rep Howard was indicted on charges of misusing the legislator’s scholarship. (Every Illinois legislator has the right to hand out one full scholarship to anyone they please, which makes it hard to comprehend how it could be illegal, but ask the US Attorney if you want answers, I can’t find any besides the bill.) It looks to me like the banking industry is sending a message to the rest of the legislature. “Stick your nose in this again and you’re going to get the same thing we gave Howard.”

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