Self-Defense Tip: Shun ATMs


“Nashville Police say in a statement that WZTV is offering the reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who wounded reporter Erika Lathon late Thursday after she withdrew cash from a Bank of America ATM near downtown,” reports. “Police said the robber demanded money from Lathon, who complied, but he then shot her in the arm and ran away.” This story highlights an important fact: complying with a thief’s demands is no guarantee that you will emerge from a robbery physically unmolested. You pay’s your money, you takes your chances . . .

Of course a risk reward ration applies if you fight (a.k.a., counter-ambush) a robber. More importantly, Ms. Lathon’s horrific experience also focuses attention on a simple, inescapable fact: cash is king . . .

Crooks like cash as much as car dealers (if we’re making that distinction). They follow my late father’s advice: if you want to shoot ducks go where the ducks are. Or, as bank robber Willie Sutton famously opined when asked why he robs banks, “because that’s where the money is.”

All of which means withdrawing cash out of an ATM at o’ dark downtown is a decidedly dumb idea. That said, even at the best of times, they’re a violent attack waiting to happen. In terms of attracting violent thieves, you might as well take your chances at a cocaine dispensing machine. Or an actual cocaine dealer. At least you won’t be facing a wall.

The banks are well aware that ATMs are a bad guy magnet. Truth be told, financial institutions aren’t terribly concerned. You know those card-activated glass booths and the little tiny mirrors some banks place on some ATMs? Security theater. Banks consider ATM robberies part of the cost of doing business—just like credit card fraud.

As always, your safety is your own responsibility, not corporate America’s or the “we’re here to mop up” po-po. Face it (if you haven’t already): ponying-up to an ATM makes you the stupid person in a stupid place doing a stupid thing.

Of course, there are degrees of stupidity. Using an ATM during the day inside a bank with customers and tellers nearby is about as dangerous as telling Shunit Faragi to lay off the felafels. Pulling a late-night Lathon is asking for trouble.

If you have to have cash and the bank’s closed an ATM inside a gas station or your local Stop ‘n Rob is your best choice. (Consider the outrageous transaction fee a security tax.) The trick here: situational awareness. Put your head on a swivel and pay very close attention to what’s going on around you before and [especially] after the financial transaction.

And yes, be prepared to use your firearm. I don’t mean put your hand inside your jacket pocket on a revolver—unless you happen to have a revolver inside your jacket pocket. I’m talking about unbuttoning your outer garments and being mentally ready to defend your life.

Remember: if anything happens at an ATM is going to happen very quickly. Minimize the risk by doing a little surveillance before you swoop in for your Benjamins. Check the spaces where you’d hide if you were going to rob you. And if someone’s surveilling you surveilling them (uh-huh) just walk away.

Personally, I use my debit card for just about everything. Except as a weapon. Although that is an intriguing idea . . .