The guide begins by describing the problem and reviewing factors that increase the risks of robbery of taxi drivers. The guide then identifies a series of questions that might assist you in analyzing your local taxi robbery problem. Finally, the guide reviews responses to the problem and what is known about these from evaluative research and police practice.
One of the biggest barriers to understanding the problem of taxi driver robbery is the lack of data specifically collected on this crime. Most police departments do not record the circumstances surrounding a robbery incident in a way that allows taxi robberies to be identified easily. Much of what is known about taxi robbery is based on information recorded on assaults and homicides by occupation.† These data consistently show that, as an occupation or industry, taxi drivers have the highest or among the highest risk of job-related homicide and assault.1 Robbery is the motive for more than half of all work-related homicides (80 percent) and non-fatal assaults (60 percent).2 A U.S. study that did look at robbery victimization data by occupation also found that taxi drivers were among those most often robbed. 3
† No studies focused specifically on taxi driver victimization have been carried out in the United States though such research has been done in Australia (Mayhew, 1999; Haines, 1997; Keatsdale Pty. Ltd., 1995), Canada (Stenning, 1996), the United Kingdom (Westmarland and Anderson, 2001; Smith, forthcoming) and the Netherlands (Elzinga, 1996). Mayhew (2000b) provides a comprehensive review of the studies that have looked at taxi driver assaults.
Even the information that is available, however, is likely to be incomplete. 4Many drivers work as independent contractors and, as such, may not be eligible for workers compensation (one of the main data sources for studies of occupational assault). More importantly, the structure of compensation for services in the industry (where time off means no income) decreases the incentive drivers might otherwise have to report crimes to the police or other official sources. That may be especially true if drivers see
the crime as relatively minor, they do not think the police can do anything about it, or they think that the police will not take their crime problems seriously.† The problem of under-reporting may be particularly acute in relation to attempted robberies since these are likely to be seen by drivers as less severe incidents. However, attempted robberies may be particularly useful to understand when developing problem-solving strategies since they were successfully disrupted for some reason.
† If police do not take crimes seriously, then this may lead to additional problems. For example, Mayhew (1999) noted the belief among some drivers that police failure to take small fare evasions seriously may embolden offenders and lead to more serious incidents with drivers.
To understand taxi robberies it is necessary to understand the industry in which cab drivers operate. The compensation that drivers receive is related to the number of fares they have in a given shift, the distance they travel, the amount of tips they receive, and the costs of the vehicle (and any fees paid for access to fares via radio dispatch, if they use this service). Robbery depletes driver revenue and has the potential for injury and death. Therefore, drivers must continually balance the competing concerns of increasing revenue through accepting fares and of risking potential revenue loss (and potential physical harm). Knowing how the taxi industry is organized in a particular locality is an important first step in developing a taxi driver robbery problem-solving strategy related to that place.
In general, there are two different types of taxi services:
† The term “gypsy cab,” which historically has been limited to services that operate without the needed licenses in an area, is increasingly being used in New York City to refer to livery services (Marosi, n.d.).
Problem-solvers need to look at the types of services offered in the community in order to look for patterns of offending. Some patterns may be typical for only one set of drivers, if more than one type of service operates in that area, particularly if prevention techniques and equipment differ among the different types of services or ownership relationships. †
† The recent drop in the level of homicides among livery drivers in New York City (Luo, 2004) may be an example of how the prevention equipment on different types of taxi services can affect the victimization patterns of drivers. In the early 1990s yellow cab drivers and livery drivers in fleets were required to have bulletproof partitions in their cabs. Homicides among these drivers dropped following this initiative (Marosi, n.d.). Livery drivers who were owner-drivers were not required to have bulletproof partitions in their cabs until 2000 when the regulations changed following a spate of murders of livery drivers. With this new initiative, all livery drivers were required to install partitions or surveillance cameras. Establishing a direct link between the requirement for new equipment and the drop in homicides among livery drivers is difficult to do unambiguously, however, since other initiatives (such as increased use of decoy officers, targeting of taxi robbery locations, use of special decals that allow police to stop drivers without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, and tougher sentencing laws) were also in place. In 2001, a program was also started in New York City to install emergency contact systems in yellow and livery cabs using global positioning satellite technology and cell phone links (Mayersohn, 2001).
In general, there are two types of vehicle-driver ownership relationships:
Taxi services are usually regulated by some governmental or quasi-governmental body.† Both hackney and livery services may be regulated by the same oversight agency. Common regulatory features of these agencies include:
† One oversight model is illustrated by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (see www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/home/home.shtml) while another model involves the direct control of taxi services by the local police department, as found in Boston with the Hackney Carriage Unit.
Police departments may try to set up partnerships among regulatory agencies and industry representatives (including radio-dispatching companies, owners, associations of owners, drivers, driver associations, and labor unions) to help implement problem-solving initiatives.† The partners in the problem-solving process may need to understand both how the industry is regulated in an area and the context in which past regulation was implemented before they can begin to assess the best responses to current problems.
† Examples of partnerships involving taxi representatives can be found in Melbourne, Australia (Taxi Driver Safety Committee, 1996), Manitoba, Canada (Manitoba Taxicab Board, 1991), and Manchester, England (Manchester City Council, 2003). While the Manchester partnership has focused on late-night city center travel and disorder problems, rather than robbery, it is an example of the type of partnership initiative that has developed under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 directing local governmental authorities in England and Wales to set up crime and disorder partnerships with the police and other agencies, audit local crime, set up strategic plans to address these problems, and carry them out (see, e.g., Home Office, 1998).
This guide focuses on robbery of taxi drivers. It does not address crimes by taxi drivers against passengers or other drivers.† In addition, it does not attempt to address fully the following crimes against drivers:
† Sexual assaults on women have been the focus of a large number of enforcement initiatives in London recently under the Project Sapphire umbrella (see www.met.police.uk/sapphire/).
It also does not include robbery involving delivery services of perishable items, such as pizzas or Chinese food, or of valuables, such as cash.
While robbery is the primary motive for many attacks and resulting injuries across all occupations, 5this finding may be location-specific for taxi drivers. 6Some research in Australia 7and Britain 8has found that alcohol plays a role in driver assaults, but it is not clear that these assaults are primarily a subset of robbery-related assaults nor how prevalent they are compared to robbery-motivated assaults. Some drivers have suggested that driver behavior, such as over-charging, taking the long way around, and aggression or rudeness, may lead to aggression by passengers. 9It is unclear whether, or how often, this aggression escalates into a later robbery event or whether other types of verbal harassment or hate speech are related to taxi driver robbery. There is some evidence, however, that driver pursuit of fare evaders can result in robbery. 10 Policing agencies may, therefore, find it useful to look carefully at a variety of incidents involving taxi drivers in order to understand the taxi robbery problems in their area.
Policing agencies seeking to limit the number of taxi driver robberies in their area need to try to understand where the links between crimes can be made, as well as how the series of actions in a robbery crime “script” † develop and how they relate to prevention schemes. For example, prevention measures, such as safety shields between drivers and passengers, designed to help prevent one type of crime (robbery) may also help prevent other crimes (homicides and assaults). Yet, drivers in some areas have been concerned that they may depersonalize them or go against a culture that prizes friendliness, banter, and lack of social divisions. 11 This might result in lower tips and possibly increased fare evasion and vandalism. If these unwanted consequences do not materialize, then it may be easier for drivers to accept the prevention measures against the rarer robbery event. Thus, police agencies seeking to understand a local taxi driver robbery problem may wish to monitor other offenses against drivers both before and after implementing new prevention initiatives.
† A crime “script” is a shorthand term developed to help describe the stages in an unfolding crime event, similar to the “modus operandi” (Cornish,1994).
Understanding the factors that contribute to your problem will help you frame your own local analysis questions, determine good effectiveness measures, recognize key intervention points, and select appropriate responses.
Taxi drivers are at risk of robbery due to a combination of factors related to the nature of their job:
These risk factors, among others, have been mentioned in a number of studies of workplace homicide and violence in general. 12
Not all places pose the same degree of danger in relation to these factors, nor do all drivers have the same degree of exposure to these risk factors. For example, even within a given locality, there may be a great deal of variability in the designs and features of the vehicles themselves. Some cabs may be purpose-built vehicles,† equipped with driver safety screens, radios, charge card machines, global positioning satellite (GPS) tracking, and digital infrared cameras. Other cabs in that area may have none of these features.
† Purpose-built vehicles are those designed specifically for use as taxicabs, such as Checker cabs and the London cab.
One study in Australia found that robberies were most likely to be carried out by young men who were inebriated and hailed the cab from the street or taxi stands . 13 In other places, robberies may be most likely to follow calls to dispatchers by women, with drivers arriving to find a man with a gun and no women. 14 Drivers must be made aware of the common patterns for robberies in their area, but should also be aware that they may not always be able to identify potential robbers or robbery situations before the event unfolds.
The information provided above is only a generalized description of taxi driver robbery. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.
The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of taxi robbery, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.
To understand the problem of taxi robberies it is important for local police agencies to understand the types of services normally provided by taxis operating in their jurisdiction. The central distinction is between hackney cabs and livery cabs (discussed above). Other distinctions among types of taxi services may also be important for understanding the environment in which drivers normally work.
It is also important for police agencies to understand the types of passengers normally frequenting cabs in the area and why they take taxis. Common passenger types include:
If so, what types of injuries do they suffer?
Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them to determine whether they have been effective. All measures should be taken in both the target area and the surrounding area. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.†) Due to the problems involved in finding comparable surrounding areas, police agencies may try to get comparison figures from similar types of cities or local areas within the region.
† Also see Problem Solving Tips: A Guide to Reducing Crime and Disorder through Problem-Solving Partnerships ( U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office, 2002). [Full Text]
Police and industry efforts to record the number of robberies of taxi drivers more accurately may lead to an increase in reported crimes that reflects only reporting practices and does not indicate a real increase in the number of incidents. If police agencies or taxi regulators try to increase robbery and attempted robbery reporting levels, then they should do this several months prior to the implementation of any new preventive measures.
The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to taxi robbery:
Police agencies, taxi regulators, or industry representatives should measure the extent to which initiatives have been adopted to help ensure that any apparent success (or failure) is correctly attributed to the appropriate antirobbery initiative. If police or regulators are to assess prevention efforts accurately, then there must be cooperation among the various information holders. One way to accomplish this would be to document the crime prevention hardware and systems on a vehicle at the time it is inspected by the taxi regulator, with owners being required to report changes between inspections with an easy-to-use reporting form. Also, the agency operating a grant or loan program to support the installation of particular security devices should keep records of the vehicles receiving the equipment and forward this information to taxi liaison officers in policing agencies or to those in the regulator’s office who monitor crimes against drivers. And finally, police agencies instituting new patrol practices in response to taxi crime should document when these initiatives begin so that their effectiveness can be monitored more accurately. As this listing clearly indicates, no one stakeholder can perform the assessment needed to determine what works in a particular area. Cooperation is crucial for accurate assessment.
Getting information from taxi drivers about the volume of their business may be difficult if they are not required to keep a log of their trips since they deal in cash and some of them may be reluctant to disclose the extent of their earnings, particularly if they do not report all of their income for tax purposes or to the owner of the vehicle (where the owner is entitled to a percentage of the takings). Also, driving a taxi is often an entry-level job for many new, and undocumented, immigrants who also may be reluctant to report any information to policing agencies or taxi regulators.
Your analysis of your local problem should give you a better understanding of the factors contributing to it. Once you have analyzed your local problem and established a baseline for measuring effectiveness, you should consider possible responses to address the problem.
The taxi industry is often regulated by an agency within local government, by an independent commission, or by the police.† These bodies set fares and limit the number of licenses permitted within particular areas, as well as control the conditions of vehicles and monitor the behavior of drivers. Often the jurisdictional boundaries between these regulatory agencies and police are not clear to everyone affected. The problem is compounded if the regulatory agency does not deploy inspectors during the late night or early evening hours. The police may be called upon to act in areas for which they have little training. They may be asked by drivers to resolve complaints that are civil, rather than criminal in nature–such as fare evasion in some locations. Taxis may operate outside their home jurisdiction and taxis from other areas may drop passengers off in local policing areas. Coordination between police and the taxi regulators may require the appointment of a special officer.
† In Boston, the taxi industry is regulated by the Boston Police Department (the Hackney Carriage Unit) while in New York City, the Taxi and Limousine Commission sets the rules for both hackney and livery services (see http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/home/home.shtml ).
The development of industry-wide responses should involve not only the police and the regulatory bodies covering a service area, but also other interested groups such as drivers, drivers’ associations, vehicle owners, and radio-cab booking companies. One researcher has commented that voluntary measures, even with wide support among drivers, do not have much chance of penetration into the industry without the support of owners.15 Sometimes these agencies require a single type of safety device, such as a bullet¬proof screen between passengers and drivers, while at other times they may allow drivers or owners to choose from several possible devices, such as safety screens, digital surveillance cameras, or automatic vehicle locators (AVLs) in combination with an alarm.16 Policies that provide some choice among safety measures may represent a compromise among competing interest groups rather than a judgment about comparative effectiveness .† However, because so little is known about the effectiveness of most of these measures, it is too soon to draw conclusions about whether it is more useful to focus on a single prevention measure or to allow a variety of measures to operate within a single area.
† But see Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources (2003) for an example of a regulatory impact statement on the requirement that security cameras be installed in taxicabs in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, where the costs and benefits of security cameras, driver safety shields, and emergency lights and duress alarms are each set out.
The responses recommended below are reasonably likely to have some beneficial effect in preventing robberies of taxi drivers; however, unless otherwise noted, none of these responses has been properly evaluated for effectiveness. Since so little research has been done in this area, it is too early to label measures as ineffective. This is why the last three responses are included but discussed separately as responses with limited potential for effectiveness. It is also important to note that, although installation costs are frequently cited as reasons for not implementing particular problem-solving strategies, a number of grant or loan programs have been set up, such as those in New York City17 and Washington, D.C.18
The following response strategies provide a foundation of ideas for addressing your particular problem. These strategies are drawn from a variety of research studies†† and police reports. Several of these strategies may apply to your community’s problem. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem. Do not limit yourself to considering what police can do. Give careful consideration to who in your community shares responsibility for the problem and can help police better respond to it.
†† Mayhew (2000a) presented a comprehensive review of prevention strategies related to assaults of taxi drivers.
Physically separating drivers from their fares can help prevent driver assault and/or robbery.
† A report from the Manitoba Taxicab Board (1991) presents an extensive discussion of taxi screens.
†† The importance of industry-wide use of safety screens in an area has been illustrated with the case of New York City livery drivers. If livery drivers owned the cab they drove, they were exempt from the mandatory shield requirement directed at hackney cabs in the 1990s. While homicide deaths among hackney drivers dropped, livery drivers continued to be victimized (Marosi, n.d.). In 2000, following a number of killings of livery drivers, all livery drivers were required to install either a shield or a digital surveillance camera (Luo, 2004; see also New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, 2000b). Homicides have declined markedly for livery drivers since 2000. It is difficult to credit shields completely for this change, however, since a number of other prevention programs were also in effect in that period.
Although taxis in many large U.S. cities have driver safety screens, this is by no means a universal feature in all vehicles. Screens have been seen to have the following disadvantages:20
† Passenger injury was seen as a major problem in New York City cabs. The “Celebrity Talking Taxi” Program, begun in 1997, used recordings by celebrities to remind passengers to wear their seat belts (New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, 2002). The program was abandoned in 2003 following a study of passenger compliance (Feuer, 2003). The recordings were seen as annoying and repetitive, leading many passengers to defy the recommendation to buckle-up.
However, as one study found, drivers who have been the victims of assaults or robberies may be more likely to want screens in their cabs than those who have been the victims of less serious crimes.21 If taxi regulators require drivers to have screens in their vehicles, then they must provide drivers with information about the types of attacks that screens can protect them against, such as whether they are shatter resistant as well as being bulletproof.
Security cameras in taxis can capture robberies in progress. Credit: www.toronto-crimestoppers.com
The types of cameras available for use in taxicabs have become increasingly sophisticated in the last 10 years.22 Digital cameras, with infrared capability, can be connected to systems that hold a large number of images. Drivers must be aware whether their system writes over images or can retain a certain number of images if an alarm is triggered. If camera images are stored on equipment held in the trunk of the cab, there is a possibility that when robbery events are caught on camera, offenders may try to destroy the equipment (and cab) to eliminate the evidence. Systems that transmit the images to a central location away from the taxi should help to overcome this problem if offenders are aware of how these systems work. Industry representatives should explore technological innovations that make vehicle destruction less likely.
Not all passengers like cameras.23 Part of this may be due to uncertainty over how their images will be used. Regulators need to set up strict safeguards to protect passenger privacy. Legislation over use of the images may provide some protection, but this may also be achieved if the images are not available to the drivers.† Clearly, much depends on the technology used.
† This would require images to be stored and accessed only through a central computing facility, such as one run by the police department or the industry’s oversight commission. These images would then only be downloaded in special circumstances, such as when a crime occurs or a complaint has been made against the driver. Protection against passenger complaints is seen by many drivers as an additional advantage of having cameras in their cabs and may encourage drivers to install them. Cameras can also be used to help prove or disprove complaints against drivers–if the images have been preserved.
Some cities, such as New York City, Chicago, and Sydney, Australia, permit drivers to have cameras in their taxis in lieu of driver safety shields.†† Police-industry partnerships need to be aware that not all prevention devices may be equally effective against robbery. Crime displacement may occur if potential robbers see one set of drivers as less protected than drivers with other devices in their cabs.
†† The effectiveness of cameras in taxis is a hotly debated issue (see Rathbone, n.d.).
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has advocated so-called “open mikes.”24 These devices block the airwaves on that channel, broadcasting whatever comes from the open mike. Accidentally switching on an open mike may be a particular problem if the open channel is also the company’s dispatching channel since it is blocked when left “open” and the driver cannot be contacted to close it. If the driver carries a mobile phone, the dispatcher has that number, and mobile phone use by taxi drivers is not prohibited, then that problem may be overcome.
Drivers can use alarms to signal to some central location (taxi company or police station) that they are having trouble or they can be used to set off a “trouble light” on the vehicle itself that cannot be seen by the passengers. Alarms triggered easily through the pressing of a toggle switch at the driver’s foot, on the steering wheel, or on the radio itself may also be accidentally switched on. While this may be avoided if the driver has to confirm the alarm, this puts an extra burden on the driver as an incident is unfolding.
In an area with foot or vehicle traffic, passersby may see trouble alarms and summon police. Publicity about trouble lights should increase awareness among those outside the taxi industry about the meaning of these lights and avoid confusion with “ready-for-hire” lights on hackney cabs.
Drivers and dispatchers need to be carefully trained by the taxi companies:
Police officers must be carefully trained in the protocols for response so that they do not increase the potential harm to the driver. Police departments must understand the problems that may arise with these systems and should review with taxi drivers and dispatching companies their response protocols.
Taxi dispatching companies are increasingly using GPS systems to determine which driver is closest to a pick-up location. Some drivers do not like them because they do not take into account driving times to locations or because they allow too much oversight of the driver’s movements. Driver resistance to having an alarm system linked to GPS tracking may be overcome if the systems are independently installed (such as by the taxi-oversight commission or agency) and monitored (by the commission or the local police department).
Given that one of the reasons that taxi drivers are at risk of robbery is that they carry cash with them, a number of different strategies have been developed to limit the availability of cash in taxis.
Machines that allow taxi drivers to accept credit cards are becoming more common.
† Australian research has shown that many robberies involve small amounts of money–less than $30 (Keatsdale Pty. Ltd., 1995).
Several methods can be used to prevent passengers from seeing that drivers are carrying large amounts of money and knowing where it is kept. The first two techniques listed below may be more effective since they do not involve a possible confrontation with passengers:
Drivers may learn these practices from other drivers–e.g., family or friends in the business–or through driver safety education programs (see No. 28 below).
† For example, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission sets out some of this information in an easy-to-use format for passengers (and drivers) at www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/home/home.shtml.
†† New York City and Washington, D.C., have recently dealt with highprofile campaigns and lawsuits against service refusals on the ground that they amount to illegal racial profiling or residence discrimination. In New York City, the recent campaign against service refusal on racial grounds began in response to a complaint by actor Danny Glover in 1999 who highlighted the problem facing many African-Americans and Hispanics in the city (Yinger, n.d.). Mayor Giuliani reinstated sting operations by police officers that resulted in immediate suspension of the driver, along with other sanctions for repeat offending. The immediate suspension measure was later overturned by a federal judge as it did not meet the requirement for a fair hearing prior to suspension (Padberg v. McGrath- McKechnie, 2002). In Washington, D.C., there have been a number of lawsuits filed in which discriminatory service refusal has been alleged (see Kovaleski, 2003; Mitchell v. Diamond Cab Company, 2003). A report by The Equal Rights Center (2003) cited the D.C. Taxicab Commission for neglecting its responsibilities in the civil rights area for failing to investigate discrimination complaints promptly and thoroughly and for not establishing effective fines and penalties for drivers or companies (see also Kovaleski and Chan, 2003).
One of the reasons police agencies need to be concerned about taxi robbery is that robbery and fear of robbery fuel discriminatory practices if drivers perceive that they are at unreasonable risk merely by picking up certain passengers or going into certain neighborhoods. This problem is likely to be more difficult to deal with than racial profiling within policing agencies. Instead of dealing with a situation in which an officer is compelled by law to refrain from an action unless it can be justified, here, the driver is compelled by law to act unless the non-action can be justified. In effect, the law is telling one group in a risky industry (police officers) to be risk averse, while it is telling another group in another risky industry (taxi drivers) that they cannot be risk averse. However, if the robbery risks are low, then it becomes easier for drivers to comply with the law and more difficult for them to justify illegal refusals on grounds of high risk. In effect, the low actual risks allow drivers to be both risk averse and not engage in racial or residential discrimination.
One commentator has suggested that general rates of service refusals in New York City are not related to crime levels but rather to the economics of driving a cab.28,† This finding points to a need for policing agencies to use a problem-solving approach to illegal service refusals–looking at the data on serious crimes against taxi drivers in an area (including type of crime, area, and characteristics of offenders), the number of taxis in service (and the fees paid for cab rental), and the enforcement mechanisms available against drivers and companies who use racial profiling or other illegal screening techniques to ensure that these are all geared to help limit the practice.
† According to this research, as crime was falling in the city, service refusal complaints were rising. These complaints were highest when the demand for cabs was highest, as measured by time spent cruising for customers. This is because when there are a lot of cabs looking for passengers (either because there are more cabs or the fares are high), cabbies cannot afford to be as selective as they can be when there are fewer cabs on the road and fares are lower. In addition, this research cited passenger surveys suggesting that service refusals (both of minority and non-minority passengers) appeared to be related to the pressure to make money and the desire to work only in certain areas of the city.
† The trip sheet may be required by the regulator or company to keep track of driver income, but it may also be used to document patterns of robbery if the driver is killed or seriously incapacitated during the crime.
† In a study of taxi drivers in Cardiff, Wales, drivers related a number of incidents in which they tried to go to police stations for assistance late at night only to find that the stations were not open (Smith, forthcoming).
During or after a robbery incident, drivers are sometimes advised to get out of the cab if they are sure it is safe to do so. This is an area in which driver training, based on experience in an area, should guide drivers in how best to judge whether to exit a cab during or after an incident.
Drivers should carry first aid kits in their cabs even if this is not required by their local regulatory agency. These could help limit any injury they receive during a robbery or assault.
Similarly, drivers should keep an extra key in a pocket to allow them to use their cab if the robbers have taken their keys. This is particularly important if they have been abandoned in a remote location and have no radio or telephone.
There are various organizational approaches police agencies can take to address taxi robbery problems. Special units could be set up to deal with taxi driver robbery if the number of incidents appears high. These units should be used to help determine patterns in taxi robbery and then develop strategies to address what they find. For example, they may target specific areas with high numbers of robbery incidents using decoy taxis driven by police officers.
Police may also want to have a more general taxi unit that deals with a variety of taxi-related crimes, developing expertise in the area. The taxi unit should:
The constitutionality of this program was recently upheld by the New York Court of Appeals.30 TRIP differs from earlier programs that were struck down by the Court of Appeals31 and the U.S. District Court.32 The earlier programs involved too much discretion for police in how to carry out the stops. A program in Boston (TIP), similar to TRIP in New York City, has been upheld by the U.S. Circuit Court.33 The Boston Police inform drivers where they will have their check points so that drivers who feel danger or concern can drive by and turn on their cab’s amber light (an alarm signal) for the officers to see (Sweeney, 2004).
† See Spelman (1990) for a discussion of repeat offender programs.
Setting up rules, regulations, and practices that control the industry and reduce both actual and perceived unfair or dangerous practices by drivers may increase sympathy for drivers and limit the excuses† offenders may offer for targeting taxi drivers.
† “Excuses” refers to the ways in which offenders rationalize their behavior to themselves and others; it does not imply a legal or moral excuse for their offending.
† For example, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (2001) recently raised the flat-rate amount that drivers could charge for going from JFK Airport to anywhere in Manhattan to $35.
†† Taxi dispatchers at Newark Airport ask passengers in the taxi queue where they are going and write the fare on a sheet that is given to the passenger. The sheet contains taxi rules and regulations, as well as information about who to contact to complain about over-charging or other offenses by drivers.
Area experts, such as experienced police officers and former drivers, should run these sessions so that drivers see them as worthwhile. Payment for the sessions can be made by the drivers, the dispatching companies, the local government, or by grants. Details of the exact “scripts” or “modus operandi” used by offenders should not be made public to discourage imitation. Formal training has not been found to be associated with lower victimization levels among Canadian drivers. 36 Programs should inform drivers of various Internet sites that contain driver safety information or information about how taxis are regulated in their area. These include:
Companies can use Caller ID to check to see whether the call is coming from a private or public address, a telephone booth, or a mobile phone. This technology has several uses: it can be used to trace callers if they fail to show up, evade the fare, or attack or rob the driver and it allows companies to match the telephone number to blacklisted numbers (if they have such a list). Passengers calling for cabs from public telephone booths or mobile phones may be more closely scrutinized by drivers since they are less traceable than some other passengers are.
Because so little is known about taxi robberies and their prevention, the only responses included here are ones that appear to hold little promise as effective protection strategies against robberies.
Drivers can use this type of system to prevent nonpayment of fares as well as keep passengers from getting out where it is not safe. Locking passengers in when no screen is present is likely to escalate the use of violence against drivers. Locking passengers in when there are screens may lead to vehicle damage.
The table below summarizes the responses to taxi driver robbery, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.
|#||Response||How It Works||Works Best If...||Considerations|
|1||Separating drivers from passengers||Keeps offenders from reaching drivers to carry out threats||...most robbers attack from back seat, screens are fitted on all cabs, and cabs are purpose-built or large||Screens are expensive to install, passengers need to wear seat belts to prevent sudden stopping injuries|
|2||Recording activity with security cameras||Increases chances of offenders being caught, may discourage offenders from from doing crime||...camera and any resulting prosecutions are publicized||Cameras need to be well-designed for the environment, passengers may question how images will be used, offenders may try to destroy camera evidence, resulting in escalation of the crime event|
|3||Using a radio or alarm to call for help||Permits the driver to notify others that a crime is in progress or has occurred||...technology is easy to use and unlikely to be tripped accidentally, location and problem can be communicated, and help is close at hand||Good training in use of equipment and clear protocols for use response are needed|
|4||Keeping track of vehicle locations with automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems||Allows a third party to know where the cab is if an alarm or distress call is received||...used with an alarm system, system is constantly monitored, and help is close at hand||Systems are expensive to install and clear protocols for response are needed|
|5||Putting trunk latches on the inside of vehicle trunks as well as near drivers||Allows drivers imprisoned in trunks to get out, and prevents drivers from having to get out if the vehicle if a situation seems unsafe||...driver is not badly hurt when placed in the trunk, driver is able to correctly assess the dangerousness of a situation||Latches in trunks are designed to reduce level of injury while latches in vehicles require driver judgement of a situation that may not always be clear|
|6||Disabling vehicles||Prevents vehicles from getting to desired place for robbery or offenders from getting away in vehicles||...it is safe to stop the cab and it is in an area where help is readily available, and it is safer to have robbers unable to get away than to have them escape after a robbery||Potential response from offenders may escalate the incident|
|7||Eliminating cash payments||Lowers the amount of ready cash in vehicles, making drivers less attractive targets||...variety of payments methods results in little or no cash in vehicle||Nature of regular clientele may make it difficult for drivers to move to a cashless system, and use of even small amounts of money may still make drivers attractive to some offenders|
|8||Dropping money off||Lowers the amount of ready cash in vehicles, making drivers less attractive targets||...it is easy and safe for drivers to drop money off at ATMs, home, or base||Securing alternative sites may be difficult or costly, with some alternatives (ATMs) providing records of money earned|
|9||Keeping money locked up or out of sight||Makes it difficult for offenders to find or get money, or to know exact amount carried||...drivers can refer to some rule or practice that confirms that little money is available||Money locked in safes, with notice given, could escalate the incident to kidnapping or vehicle theft|
|10||Minimizing expectations about the amount of money present||Prevents offenders from expecting or being tempted by the knowledge of large amounts of cash present||...it is reasonable to believe the driver is telling the truth||Offenders may not believe drivers, may be willing to rob them even for a very small amount of money|
|Other Driver Practices|
|#||Response||How It Works||Works Best If...||Considerations|
|11||Controlling who gets in||Allows driver to assess who enters the vehicle and when, and how many people enter the vehicle, since keeping people out is easier than getting them out once they are in||...robberies in an area are committed by offenders who have characteristics that make them easily identifiable, such as being unruly, and allow the driver to legally refuse them entry||Not enough is known about robbers to make them easily identifiable so screening can lead to racial or residential discrimination, with drivers violating regulations that usually require them to take all passengers (except in limited circumstances)|
|12||Directing passengers to particular seats in the cab||Keeps passengers from sitting in the seats most associated with robberies in an area||...the cab is not crowded and the passenger is not insulted by the request||Where safety screens have been installed, passengers should not be able to sit in the front seat if it is within the barrier|
|13||Finding out the destination before moving||Identifies those who are not seeking a ride but are looking for a good location to carry out a robbery||...offenders do not have a plausible destination to offer driver||Drivers should be alerted when passengers change destination en route|
|14||Sharing destination information with others||Informs passengers that someone outside the cab knows of their destination and possible route or has seen them||...offenders are uncertain who and how many people know destination or, if given within sight of another driver, whether another driver can identify them||This strategy may not provide any additional crime prevention effect if the cab has an AVL device|
|15||Putting additional people in the cab||Increases the perceived difficulty of doing a robbery and if successful, the risk that the offender will be identified||...increasing the number of people in the cab does not lead to increased problems for driver, such as conflicts among passengers||These schemes may only be popular among passengers where cabs are scarce (ride-sharing) and driver companions are not seen as increasing the risk of assault on passengers by drivers|
|16||Setting rules and asking those who don't meet them to get out||Informs potential offenders that drivers are willing to control what happens in the cab, or deflects potential offenders away from the cab at an early stage of what may become a robbery event||...driver rules are backed up by official rules from the regulator or taxi company||Research on the unfolding of robbery events is limited|
|17||Trying not to provoke passengers||Prevents passengers from using driver behavior as an excuse for criminal behavior||...drivers know the types of responses or situations that may provoke an aggressive response or escalate aggression by passengers||Taxi regulators may eliminate some sources of conflict between drivers and passengers by setting rules for handling common situations (No. 26) or running training programs for drivers (No. 28)|
|18||Knowing where to go for help late at night||Increases drivers' chances of gaining assistance before, during, or after a robbery event||...those at the 24-hour location know it has been identified as a place where assistance may be sought and are trained in handling these types of situations||Drivers must be kept informed when 24-hour locations close down, particularly if they are police stations|
|19||Allowing others to see inside the cab||Increases the possibility that a third party will see the driver in trouble and call the police||...robbery occurs in an area where there is vehicle or street traffic||This measure has not been evaluated in relation to taxicabs though it is among a group of factors found to be effective in limiting convenience store robberies|
|20||Limiting where the cab will make a drop off||Protects driver from being surprised by the passenger or others at the drop-off location or limited in his/ her ability to get away, allows onlookers to monitor events more easily||...driver is aware of the physical layout of the street prior to entry into it||Demonstrates the importance of having good data available to drivers about where crimes have occurred|
|21||Staying in the cab unless it is safe to get out||Provides driver with a (limited) physical barrier to an attack from outside the cab and may be a means of getting away from an offender located in the cab||...driver is protected by a screen or otherwise physically separated from the offender||Drivers should be trained to assess risks of leaving vehicles in different robbery scenarios and types of cabs, as they may vary greatly|
|22||Limiting injury when a robbery occurs||Keeps the robbery from escalating into a robbery with injury, or one with serious injury||...driver is not so seriously injured that he/she cannot carry out protective activities||Does not prevent the crime from occurring but may be useful in limited situations|
|23||Authorizing police stops||Allows police to stop a cab without reasonable suspicion or probable cause||...protocol followed by police is understood by drivers||Program used must pass constitutional standards and limit the intrusion to the passengers|
|24||Targeting repeat offenders||Incapacitates those who have committed and may be most likely to commit future taxi robberies||...police can gather the information needed to identify and locate repeat offenders, and have the resources to find them||Requires substantial police and other criminal justice system resources, as well as accurate information about the offenders|
|25||Controlling the environment around taxi stands||Allows drivers and others to see who is waiting at the stands or to supervise activity in the area s||...area can be controlled to allow orderly waiting and turn taking by passengers and drivers||Orderly waiting at stands may increase the ability of all present to look for signs of danger among passengers as they enter cabs as well as while the cabs and passengers are waiting|
|26||Eliminating passenger and driver conflict over money||Prevents common conflicts that may escalate into aggressive behaviors||...rules set up actually eliminate the conflict rather than setting up additional conflicts||While this strategy may be used to serve additional concerns besides crime prevention, in terms of robbery, these standards may also prevent passengers from using driver behavior as an excuse for criminal behavior|
|27||Setting driver competency standards||Prevents common conflicts that may escalate into aggressive behaviors||...it is clear what types of knowledge or competency are related to driver- passenger conflicts||While this strategy may be used to serve additional concerns besides crime prevention, in terms of robbery, these standards may also prevent passengers from using driver behavior as an excuse for criminal behavior|
|28||Running driver safety training programs||Helps drivers deal with situations in which their response may affect whether a robbery is committed or not||...programs are run by experts in the field and are seen as effective by drivers||The costs of running the program should be split among the beneficiaries of better driver training, which may include the public, policing agencies, local taxi companies, as well as the drivers themselves|
|29||Screening passengers by the dispatching company||Uses lists of previously troublesome passengers or addresses, or technology (Caller-ID), to set up blacklists||...the blacklist is based on passenger identification rather than address location, and passengers causing one type of trouble are also likely to do robberies||Can be over-inclusive if it relies on location or address since other non-troublesome potential passengers may be included on the blacklist and could result in racial or residential discrimination if the focus is not on the actual past behavior of passengers|
|30||Exempting drivers from seat belt use||Prevents an offender from using a belt to strangle the driver and allows the driver to exit the vehicle quickly||...local area conditions provide a safe backdrop for beltless driving||Should not be needed if cabs are equipped with a screen between the passenger and the driver|
|Responses With Limited Potential for Efectiveness|
|#||Response||How It Works||Works Best If...||Considerations|
|31||Locking passengers in||Prevents passengers from exiting the cab without the driver's awareness or permission||...there is a screen between passengers and drivers||If there is no screen, then passengers may attack the driver unless he/she has exited the vehicle|
|32||Working only during the day||Keeps drivers from working during the times when robberies most often occur||...industry conditions allow drivers to make a living only working daytime hours and no nights||May only work for some drivers since the company may require 24-hour availability, and may only be a limited protection since some robberies occur during the daytime|
|33||Carrying a weapon||Acts as a means for drivers to protect themselves during a crime or may deter offenders from attacking drivers who they think are armed||...driver is trained in use of this weapon||May result in weapon being used against driver|
 Castillo and Jenkins (1994); Rosen (2001).
 Casteel and Peek-Asa (2000).
 Block, Felson, and Block (1984).
 Mayhew (1999).
 Casteel and Peek-Asa (2000).
 Bourette and Hanes (2000).
 Haines (1997).
 Smith (forthcoming).
 Smith (forthcoming).
 Mayhew (1999).
 Easteal and Wilson (1991).
 NIOSH (1995); Fisher, Jenkins, and Williams (1998).
 Mayhew (1999).
 Okeson and Smith (1997).
 Haines (1998).
 Stone and Bienvenu (1995).
 Schwartzman (2001); Mayersohn (2001); New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (2000b).
 Jackman and Smith (2001).
 Stone and Stevens (2000).
 Stone and Bienvenu (1995).
 Mayhew (1999).
 Jackman and Smith (2001).
 Mayersohn (2001).
 Pandya (2001).
 Easteal and Wilson (1991).
 Schaller (1999).
 Casteel and Peek-Asa (2000).
 People v. Abad (2002).
 Matter of Muhammad F. and People v. Boswel (1999).
 U.S. v. Santiago (1996).
 U.S. v. Woodrum (2000).
 Luo (2004).
 Manchester City Council (2003).
 Stenning (1996).
 Radbone (1997).
 Stenning (1996).
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Yinger. J. (n.d.). “Case: Discrimination by Taxi Drivers in New York City.”
Matter of Muhammad F. and People v. Boswel, (1999) 94 NY2d 136, cert. denied, 531 US 1044 (2000).
Mitchel v. Diamond Cab Company, (2003) 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12492.
Padberg v. McGrath -McKechnie, (2002) 203 F. Supp. 2d 261 (E.D.N.Y.), affd 60 Fed. Appx. 861 (2nd Cir.), cert. denied, 2003 U.S. LEXIS 7738.
People v. Abad, (2002) 98 NY2d 12.
U.S. v. Santiago, (1996) 950 F. Supp. 590.
U.S. v. Woodrum, (2000) 202 F3d 1 (1st Cir.), reh and reh en banc denied 208 F3d 8 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 531 US 1035.
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