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Monserrate introduces bill to decrease bank robberies

By Philip Newman

“This legislation is about protecting people's futures,” said Monserrate, a member of the Council's Public Safety Committee and veteran of 12 years with the New York Police Department.

“People have a right to know that their bank is doing everything it can to protect not only the money in the vaults but also the people who work hard to put it there. With the alarming increase in bank robberies, the Council is doing everything in their power to help ensure that right. This law is the first step in that process.”

There has been a definite increase in bank robberies in Queens, which is difficult to quantify because the NYPD does not break down the statistics in this crime category by borough.

“It's clear that something needs to be done,” said Monserrate, who introduced the legislation in the Council Feb. 26.

“Every time the NYPD's (crime statistics) numbers go up, someone's hard-fought future is stolen out from under them. The relationship between customer and bank is one of trust. This legislation will help banks keep that trust by creating a working partnership with the vast public safety resources of one of the country's best police departments.”

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly testified before the City Council Public Safety Committee last year that in 2003 the number of bank robberies in New York City rose by 200 percent.

Kelly attributed the large jump in holdups in part to lax security measures by the banks. Kelly criticized banks on several occasions, saying they seemed unwilling to take precautions against holdups and suggesting that some even seemed to be accepting robberies as a cost of doing business.

Kelly said such banks were endangering the lives of their workers and depositors who might be in the banks during holdups.

The legislation proposed by Monserrate requires each bank to file with the Police Department a written safety plan for each branch, outlining the branch's existing security measures, potential vulnerabilities and strategies for correcting such flaws.

Banks failing to file such plans would be subjected to a civil penalty of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000 and an additional penalty of $1,000 for each day such violation continues.

The police commissioner would be authorized to enforce the law.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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