/ 9 July 2009

Absa’s ATM pepper-spray plan backfires

A plan by Absa to fits its ATMs with pepper spray went awry recently when three technicians had to be treated by paramedics after inhaling the irritant.

Absa said on Thursday that it was piloting the initiative in an attempt to stop criminals from tampering with the machines.

Depending on how successful the initiative is, it could be rolled out around the country, said spokesperson Patrick Wadula.

”During a routine maintenance check at an Absa ATM in Fish Hoek, the pepper-spray device was accidentally activated. At the time there were no customers using the ATM, however, the spray spread into the shopping centre where the ATMs are situated,” said Wadula in a statement sent to the Mail & Guardian Online on Thursday, adding that the bank regretted the ”unfortunate incident”.

He said due to security reasons, Absa could not divulge further details of where and when they would roll out the initiative.

The technology uses cameras to detect people tampering with the ATM slots. Another machine then ejects pepper spray to stun the culprit while the response teams rush to reach the crime scene.

The FNB and Standard Bank spokespersons declined to say whether their banks had introduced the new technology.

”Even if we were using it we wouldn’t want to alert criminals … One has to always keep a step ahead of the criminal,” said Erik Larsen of Standard Bank.

There was no immediate comment from Sabric, the company responsible for combating crime in the banking industry – Sapa