It’s all so confusing. What’s a taxi driver to believe? There are increasing reports of assaults against taxi drivers in the City. The frequency and seriousness of the crimes appear to be escalating. Just last month a female driver was assaulted and robbed.
Passengers are often impressed how drivers can understand dispatcher instructions and chatter over the two-way radio. Instructions often delivered at disjointed voice speeds. However, No CB radio chatter gains the attention of a taxi driver as quickly as cries for help from another. It is the call we don’t want to hear and when we do, it is our duty to respond to the site as quickly as possible. Next time it may be you requiring assistance.
Many taxi drivers are unsure if there is an actual increase or if it is hype caused by enhanced media coverage. Requests to the RNC for statistics on crimes against taxi drivers have not yet been responded to.
Dealing with the criminal element intent on taxi driver robbery or assault is difficult. We may sometimes appear to be easy targets. Outnumbered and in isolated areas, the driver is viewed as an easy mark. Particularly female drivers.
The directing minds in the local taxi industry do not yet support installing cages or cameras. While some drivers do, most do not want cages separating them from their passengers. Perhaps it’s our Island nature to want jovial interaction and carry on a conversation. Cages are expensive to install and cab owners (brokers) do not want that expense. Cameras are also costly and difficult to maintain. Besides, they create a temptation for our sobriety challenged to engage in auditions for sex tapes. No kidding. However, we may soon have no choice but to install these safety devices.
The Federal Government recently enacted legislation to provide stronger sentences for those convicted of crimes against taxi drivers and others in the transportation game, such as bus drivers. The City did lobby for the passage of the bill. Other than that, the City has not been seen to be present in the issue.
Drivers must also take responsibility to prevent or be prepared to respond to attacks if they occur. We have a responsibility to make ourselves aware of developing situations and be prepared to avoid and de-escalate if it does.
Again, the RNC has not yet responded to approaches for engagement on that front. Hopefully it will see an opportunity to develop and make available a driver safety program. Education will go a long way to minimizing driver assault and robbery. Who better to do this than a body mandated for public safety?
There is no representative association for the taxi industry in St. John’s. The last time it tried to organize, those involved ended up in Supreme Court, having anti-competition charges laid against them. They were eventually dropped but not before a lot of damage was done.
What’s a driver to do?