In-car CCTV could help reduce assaults on taxi drivers

June 26, 2009 at 3:36 pm 1 comment

blackcab
by Anna Rutter

The implementation of additional safety measures in taxi and private hire vehicles such as in-car CCTV cameras and taxi marshals would have a beneficial effect on the safety of both passenger and driver, Transport Minister Sadiq Khan told MPs yesterday.

Addressing the House during an adjournment debate on assaults on taxi drivers, Mr Khan argued that it was appalling that drivers who provided a public service were fearful about the prospect of abuse or violence.

It was particularly depressing to learn that Asian and other ethnic-minority drivers appeared to be subject to higher levels of abuse, he added.

The Government had undertaken constructive initiatives to help drivers enhance their own personal security, he explained, such as new guidance on measures that could be taken to stay safe including practical advice on how to reduce the risk of violence.

Furthermore, guidance had also been published on crime and disorder reduction partnerships to help reduce the number of assaults on taxi and private hire vehicle drivers.

Turning to fare disputes, Mr Khan acknowledged that the issue was a major cause of confrontation between passengers and drivers.

The Government was in discussions with the Association of Chief Police Officers on ways to raise awareness of the legal position on passengers making off without paying their fare.

He argued that the key to reducing the number of assaults was through partnership working at local level, with taxi trades working with local police and licensing authorities to highlight their concerns and to seek suitable solutions.

This could lead to the funding of in-car CCTV and taxi marshals which would be beneficial for both driver and passenger.

Taxi drivers must be urged to report all violent incidents to the police, he said, noting that non reporting meant that the police were unaware of the type and scale of the problems that drivers faced.

The Minister accepted that there was no silver bullet that would solve the problem, but pledged to continue to work with the trade, the police and local licensing authorities to ensure that solutions could be found to some of the challenges posed.

Earlier in the debate, Conservative MP Brian Binley voiced concerns that violence against taxi drivers had increased sizeable over the past decade, with the increase linked to the rise in late-night drinking in major town centres.

Stressing the importance of taxis to the transport industry, he informed the House that the industry made around 700 million taxi journeys a year, which translated to 11 journeys for each member of the population.

This was a sizeable industry that played a major role in public transportation, he asserted.

As taxi drivers were often alone with their customers in their cabs, they were highly vulnerable to violence and abuse, he said, and whilst official figures were not clear, they were ‘horrifying’ with 51 murders in the private hire and Hackney cab industry over a 15 year period.

Race was a major factor in this issue, with two thirds of attacks on drivers from ethnic minorities.

Taxi drivers lacked faith in the justice system which explained the low report rate, Mr Binley explained, with 70 per cent of drivers who had been attacked admitting to not reporting the attack as they did not think police would be interested.

Equally, evidence suggested that in certain parts of the county, the relationship between police and taxi drivers was simply not good enough.

He argued that there was action that could be taken to help taxi drivers, such as screens in hire cars which could stop attacks from behind and unwanted sexual advances, and the installation of in-car CCTV cameras which could help increase security for passengers and drivers. He called upon the Government to provide information that would encourage taxi drivers to purchase CCTV cameras.

Turning to the Transport Minister, Mr Binley asked that the Government require local authorities to install screens as a basic requirement in non-Hackney cab taxis, and to encourage police to protect both the safety of taxi customers and their drivers to abolish the perception that police do not care.

The Government had a responsibility to protect taxi drivers following the change made to drinking laws which had led to more attacks on taxi drivers, he said, and for reassurance that government would do more to minimise the problems that had such an effect on the industry.

photo: cedric’s pics@flickr.com

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