January 22, 2012 – 11:39 pm

Contributed by Retired Attorney Joe Zingher , Chicago, IL

The banking industry has a problem that they’ve been keeping covered up for a long time and it’s got nothing to do with mortgages but everything to do with Natasha Cleary and her two small children.

Every so often, someone is forced to give up their ATM card and PIN or forced to make a withdrawal, then executed and the body hidden when the killer realizes there’s more money in the account. (Hiding the body prevents the card from being cancelled immediately. Take a moment to check Google News for “ATM” and “murder” and see what you get.) As bad as those stories are, it isn’t enough to make the banking industry change things. They just keep right on rolling along because the murder is forgotten the next day and it’s business as usual.

The police have repeatedly called for the crime trend to be tracked. That way, they could connect Murder A to Murder B which would lead to an arrest before Murder C occurs. In 1990 the Chicago PD recommended it. In 1994 the city council passed Title 4, Chap 4, Section 305-60 which would have had the city tracking the problem. But, in 1996, the General Assembly voided all home rule statutes on ATM safety and the city stopped tracking the problem. In 1999, an Office of Banks and Real Estate report recommended tracking the problem. Nothing was done about it. In 2005, House Bill 4155 was proposed that would make a forced withdrawal a distinct felony and the police would automatically be tracking the problem had it passed. It had almost 10% of the entire general assembly signed on as co-sponsors, from both parties. It was blocked in committee and no further action was taken until 2009 when the same bill was reintroduced as HB1963, and again, it died in committee.

The cops told them we needed the law to capture murderers and our legislature looked the other way. Both times, the banking lobby told the legislature to shut up and mind their own business. Why would they do such a thing? Why would they deliberately blindfold the police when they could be protecting their customers and society generally? Well, as things stand now, an ATM connected robbery is lumped in with all other robberies and disappears amongst a couple hundred thousand other robberies each year. Out of sight and out of mind. If there were a specific crime code section, any statistician could just type in the number and pull up all the reported ATM crimes.

Here’s where things take a turn. Police software has finally caught up with the rest of society. The Chicago PD can now do a simple word search through their files for “ATM” and overlay crime codes for murder, abduction, rape, robbery, assault, missing persons etc and find all violent crimes involving ATMs. They can even back track through their records thanks to “ICLEAR” and several other systems. But, they won’t. According to the Chicago PD, they are not legally required to do so by the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. The Illinois State Police could do it also for the entire state, but they too claim they don’t have to. Governor Quinn’s office doesn’t want to get involved and neither does Attorney General Madigan’s. (That’s the problem, people don’t want to get involved in their communities anymore. What’s happened to this country?)

Fortunately, there are other sources of information and other interpretations of the FOIA requirements. Of 120 murders that occurred in Rockford from January 1, 2006 and November 3, 2011, 10 of them involved an ATM in some fashion. Like Natasha Cleary and her two children, ages 12 and 2. (The police know there was a home invasion, a triple homicide and a fire was set to destroy evidence. The last clue in the case was a strange man using Natasha’s ATM card to make a withdrawal. No arrest was made, so Natasha and her two children were victims C, D and E. Or Wilber Harnden, who was carjacked and beaten to death for his ATM card and PIN. The Clearys’ killer has not been caught. He’ll definitely do it again.) The Rockford data is the best there is available on the problem. Extrapolating statewide 10 murders out of 120 works out to 59 murders across Illinois in 2010 and 36 murders in Chicago that same year. Nationwide, over 1,200 dead, not counting the people who were attacked in the mere hope they had an ATM card but didn’t. Worse yet, the people who are misclassified as “missing persons” could double that count.

So who’s responsible for this? A: Everyone who doesn’t care. (See above.) The police tried for a long time to fix this, and the banking lobby mugged them. Now Quinn and Madigan are sitting on the data. That’s right. They are withholding it from the public.

From the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin’s blog:


and Rock River Times: