[Dave Birch] I don’t usually read the newspapers — in the UK they are full of stories that cause professional satirists to weep with shame and retreat to Hebridean monasteries, no longer able to compete — but I had a free Daily Mail to hand on a plane this week and found myself gasping in astonishment at the news that police in some parts of London have set up a hotline for people to call when they want to withdraw cash from an ATM. The police will then meet you at the ATM and a uniformed officer will follow you home a “a safe distance to not draw attention”.

Warning: I am not making this up. If you are a UK taxpayer, you may wish to seek a doctor’s advice before reading any more of this story…

PENSIONERS and shoppers concerned about being mugged after withdrawing cash from the bank are being offered a police escort home in a district of east London. Posters displayed near banks and post offices explain residents can call up and arrange for a uniformed officer to see them safely home.

[From Police escort for elderly ATM users | The Daily Telegraph]

Yet again, the hidden cost of cash rachets upwards. Who is paying for these policemen? Is it the merchants who say that cash is the cheapest form of payment? Is the the customers who use the ATMs? No, of course not, it’s the taxpayers. And as long as the social costs of cash remain unaligned with the private costs, we’ll carry on paying.

I don’t mean to imply that this taxpayer-subsidised nonsense is restricted to the UK. It isn’t. The problem of trying to protect people from criminals at ATMs is much more widespread.

Last month 56,000 police were deployed to guard about 80% of the country’s 98,000 cash machines on pension day in a bid to stop elderly people falling victim to the fraud.

[From Finextra: DIY students tackle Japanese ATM fraud]

That’s heading towards one copper per cash machine. At this rate, unless we start charging people £25 per withdrawal, all of the budget for law enforcement is going to go on cross-subsidising cash. I don’t remember voting for that.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


  1. Blame the victim??!!. The high cost is not the cost of cash, its the cost of crime. Stake out the ATMs, and put the bad guys away. Cheaper than escorts, and the scum get off the streets.
    Blaming cash for criminals is equivalent to blaming oil for oil spills, or fruit for fruit flies. Nonsense.
    Ignoring the reality of bad people on the streets, and in the case of the London, disarming the populace and leaving the individual a defenseless ward of the state’s security, is a foolish combination. Police security is almost always too late, an “after the cows have left the barn” answer to crime.
    What a contorted way to address crime.

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