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.

  • Excellent post, Brad. One question: I thought bank robbery was something the FBI handled. Why is the NYPD so involved?

  • Pedestrians need physical barriers with real car-stopping power, especially in hotspots where deaths have occurred. Drivers have airbags — peds have no such protection. When I visited Madrid, I was struck not only by how many bollards there were, but by the variety.

  • Ian Turner

    Not disagreeing with the bollard issue, but if only 10% of banks lack security barriers, and those 10% are responsible for 53% of hold-ups, that is extremely strong evidence that the barriers are effective.

  • Great post! If all premature, violent deaths are equally bad, then road-raging drivers are a much bigger threat than gun-toting thugs. Unfortunately, this simple truth is counterintuitive to most people.

    Oh, and I don’t think those 15,000 traffic-related injuries are much of a burden because the police hardly investigate them…

  • Ian, it does look like banks with security barriers are less attractive to robbers than those without, but that doesn’t mean that there would be fewer robberies if all banks had security barriers. Besides, I agree agree with TD’s claim that those barriers come with the risk of turning a robbery into a hostage situation.

  • Moser

    Most obscure transportation issue connection ever?

  • Not that I want bike racks getting run over by rouge cars, but I’d prefer my chained up bike gets destroyed rather than my body. If we blanket the city with strong, durable bike racks… they’ll double as pedestrian protecting bollards too!

  • Omri

    If your street is full of bollardy bike racks, drivers on your street will tend to be more carefull, and most likely you’ll have to go without you or your bike getting run over. Sorry, but them’s the breaks.

  • heads up on an accident you might want to investigate. i just heard a cop was chasing a bicycle down ave D in manhattan, hit the biker and then swerved into a group of bystanders, hitting 5 people including a toddler. this is all third hand info. can anybody confirm the details?

  • Paul

    Here’s to cutting the sidewalks in half and making every street a highway. Woo hoo!

  • Ian Turner

    I always like my cars in rouge.

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