Crimes against taxi drivers spark fear but are hard to track 

Recent attacks on taxi drivers have reignited the debate about the safety of cabbies in San Francisco.

In recent months, taxi drivers have been stabbed, beaten and robbed while on the job. Early Saturday morning, a cabbie was robbed at gunpoint after picking up two men who hailed his cab in the Bayview district, according to police.

Last month, a Metro Cab driver was knifed in the back after passengers refused to pay the fare. And Jan. 28, a passenger punched a cabbie several times in the face at Arkansas and Mariposa streets before fleeing the scene.

“It’s a dangerous job,” police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

Some cab drivers say the recession has desperate people going after drivers for their cash.

Mark Gruberg, a spokesman for the United Taxicab Workers union, said he would like police to notify taxi dispatchers as soon as a cabbie is victimized. That way, drivers could at least be on the lookout for suspicious activity when an incident happened rather than find out about it days later.

“If we could get quick notification to dispatch services, they could put out the word to all drivers,” Gruberg said. “It would be simple to do. If there’s a crime against a cab driver and the person hasn’t been apprehended, there’s a fair likelihood they will strike again.”

It remains unclear whether crimes against cabbies are actually on the rise.

The SFPD’s million-dollar CompStat data-collection system was implemented to help cops spot and address crime trends. But the system does not track crimes specifically involving cabbies, Esparza said.

“It’s really difficult to say there is an increase and decrease, because we don’t know,” he said.

Some drivers have criticized the Police Department’s reporting and data collection involving attacks on drivers.

David Schneider, a longtime San Francisco cabbie, spoke to the Police Commission earlier this month about the need for better communication between cops and cab companies.

Schneider said an armed robbery at 17th Street and South Van Ness Avenue last summer went virtually unreported.

“One of the main problems is getting a hold of the data [on attacks] to know what’s going on,” Schneider said.

Esparza said police do communicate regularly with cab companies about criminal incidents involving drivers. Officers from district stations meet daily to discuss crimes that have occurred in their areas. If cabbies are being targeted, drivers will know about it, Esparza said.

Also, steps have been taken in the past to increase safety for drivers. The majority of cabs have had cameras installed to deter crimes and catch predators, Esparza said.

The cameras have worked, said Richard Hybels, the owner of Metro Cab.

“That’s been quite a deterrent,” Hybels said. “I think the statistics would reveal there are fewer robberies of cab drivers.”

maldax@sfexaminer.com

Recent attacks

Saturday - A cabbie is robbed at gunpoint early in the morning after picking up two men who flagged him down in the Bayview.
February - A Metro Cab driver is stabbed in the back after passengers refused to pay the fare.
January - A passenger punches a cabbie several times in the face at Arkansas and Mariposa streets before fleeing the scene.

Source: SFPD

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