For several months, Dallas residents frequenting Chase Bank on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. have had recurring problems with the ATM displaying error messages, false notifications, and other malfunctions preventing them from making deposits or withdrawals.

The branch is located at the corner of Jeffries St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. It hosts the only Chase Bank ATM in the area, with the nearest others in Downtown and Old East Dallas. As the neighborhood holds one of the highest median resident ages in Dallas at 36.1, naturally, the area has a sizable community of seniors. This leads to increased activity at the bank in the early days of the month, coinciding with disbursement of social security checks.

Photo credit: Sam Judy

“Around the first to the third of the month you see a lot of seniors come here to cash their SSI checks and the line will be so long that it comes out in the street,” Willie Lakes, a local resident said about the line. “I don’t ever see anybody servicing [the ATM] and every month is about the same.”

Resident Kiana Hudson lives in South Dallas and uses the ATM often. Hudson explains that the machine does not functioning properly, but mostly with messages displaying a warning of insufficient cash. “There’s times the machine will say it doesn’t have any money in it. Sometimes if you try it again, it’ll work and won’t display that message and let you take money out. It makes the line get kinda long though,” she says. “It’ll go out into the street.”

The bank’s drive thru sees significant traffic at key times. Photo credit: Sam Judy

Hudson also agreed that the influx of customers was largely made up of seniors, saying it typically spikes in volume around 10 or 11 am.

Brenda, another resident, often has issues with the machine as well. She assumes that the root of the issue is lack of attention to the branch offered by the Chase Corporation. “I know they’ve had problems with robbery attempts. Someone came and tried to take the whole machine. That was about a year ago.”

The attempted theft of the ATM is just one of several crimes occurring at the MLK Chase location. The bank made headlines in December 2020 when a man robbed the location of an undisclosed amount by holding the teller at gunpoint, to which the teller complied as the man was allowed to leave with the cash 

Nakia Jackson visits the bank often as well and explains that all forms of errors are common with the ATM. However, she believes the low cash notifications are accurate and the machine is overexerted by the high traffic.

“A lot of times it’s actually out of money though, because it’s the only Chase ATM in the area,” she says. “Out of money, you can’t make deposits with your checks, and the line gets long and it’ll go out into the street. It’s crazy. Sometimes it won’t work at all.”

While she doesn’t live in the area, Jackson’s mother lives in the nearby apartments. Jackson will often visit her mother through the month, taking her social security checks to the bank for her at the beginning of the month. “Is crime an issue? Maybe. But gentrification is happening also. All these new people are moving into the neighborhood and it’s starting to become a real problem.”

Photo credit: Sam Judy

One might hope for more support from Chase to ensure greater convenience for all residents of South Dallas, however, locals are doubtful. Many believe that by the time the branch receives proper attention, the area will be completely gentrified.

“All these young business people moving in, professionals, the people with money, there’s going to have to be more of them around, I think, before they actually start caring about things,” A local going by Lonnie said about gentrification and the currently low access to many resources in South Dallas. “It’s a thing of the area, really. It’s just how it is for now.”

As South Dallas is a food desert with a median income of $36,863 and an unemployment rate of 9%, it’s unsurprising that the sector’s local Chase ATM has more issues than ones located in more affluent areas. Residents are hopeful but not expectant. A poorly executed operating system on their local bank’s ATM is as typical as any systemic issue, large or small, in South Dallas.