Memo to Ray Kelly: How About Barriers for Pedestrians, Too?

crashsub1.jpgThis driver suffered a seizure, but not to worry — the phone booth was protected. Photo: Gothamist

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly testified Monday in favor of City Council legislation to require every bank branch in the city to install bullet-proof "bandit barriers" between tellers and customers. According to City Room, Kelly told the public safety committee that he believes the measure would help reduce bank hold-ups, which he called "an ever-increasing source of burden on the Police Department’s resources."

“We don’t want to tell anyone how to run their businesses until it impacts our business,” Mr. Kelly said.

According to data provided by the Police Department, there were 444 bank robbery attempts in 2008 — up 57 percent from the year before.

While statistics produced by both sides show that about 90 percent of the 1,700 commercial bank branches in New York already have some form of barrier in place between tellers and would-be robbers, many small local banks — and some chains like TD Bank — do not have them.

The effectiveness of the barriers is questionable. Kelly himself said that last year 47 percent of bank robberies in the city occurred at banks with the barriers, while 53 percent of banks targeted by robbers did not have them. And Gregory B. Braca of TD Bank testified that the barriers can actually invite additional trouble, saying, "There is evidence that if we had to install barriers, it could
increase the risk of hostage-taking and injury to our customers."

Now, for comparison’s sake, consider the 444 attempted bank robberies in 2008 alongside the 15,000 injuries and 150 deaths suffered by pedestrians at the hands of New York City drivers in the average year. Many of those victims are injured and killed not in the street, but while standing on a corner, walking down a sidewalk, or having a meal inside a restaurant.

Couldn’t Commissioner Kelly also advocate for additional barriers between people and outlaw drivers? "Bandit bollards" has a nice ring, doesn’t it? Or, if Kelly has his way and bank barriers are eventually mandated, might NYPD redeploy officers from banks to the streets to protect pedestrians? After all, those 15,000 calls a year must also be a burden — and much like a bank, we never know who’ll be hit next.