Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cab safety in question following driver's death

From the Kingston Whig-Standard website

Rob Tripp
Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Local news
- The killing of a Kingston cabbie has pushed the issue of driver safety to the top of the industry agenda, says the area's taxi inspector.

Dave Kennedy said he's investigating safety measures being employed in other Ontario cities, in anticipation of an emotional debate in Kingston.

"It's the talk of the town now with what went on," Kennedy said.

The seven-member Kingston Area Taxi Commission meets today for the first time since the murder of David Krick on June 17.

The 50-year-old veteran driver was stabbed to death by a passenger he picked up early Father's Day morning. Police have not made an arrest in what is believed to be the city's first taxi driver killing.

At today's meeting, commissioners will review safety options that are available and are in use in other cities. Cameras will be mandatory in all Ottawa cabs by Jan. 1. They became mandatory in Toronto cabs last year. Cameras and shields are mandatory in cabs in Winnipeg.

Kennedy said he can't find any city in Ontario that has mandated the use of shields, typically plexiglass dividers that separate drivers in some way from backseat passengers.

They are common in large American cities and there is evidence that they dramatically reduce robberies and killings.

No safety equipment is mandatory in Kingston taxis.

"That's something that's never been done," Kennedy said. "We can make it mandatory for everybody to have cameras, but there's going to be a cost issue."

The commission also has the power, he said, to impose surcharges to help pay for new safety equipment.

"It could be something that could be done," he said. "It'd be a big step."

He said he's not sure there's industry support for shields.

Drivers cite concern about losing personal contact with customers and owners are worried about costs and reduced passenger space in small cars.

Other options include flashing lights located on the exterior of a taxi. A driver would activate the lights during an emergency, signalling to anyone who sees the car to call 911.

Safety advocates and researchers say shields and cameras are the best protection for cab drivers.

The chairman of the taxi commission, Ken Matthews, has said he wants to hear from people in the industry before moving ahead with any measures.

Krick's taxi, like all of the roughly 70 Amey's cars, was equipped with a global positioning system that allows the dispatcher to route calls electronically. The system permits the dispatcher to track the car's movement and speed.

Police used the GPS data to reconstruct the taxi's movements that morning, showing that he picked up his passenger at 6:36 a.m. on Wright Crescent, near the YMCA.

Krick was working the most dangerous shift, overnight, even though he was likely well aware of the risks.

He was interviewed by the Whig-Standard two years ago, after the downtown nightclub murder of Justin Schwieg, a 23-year-old Queen's student who was stabbed to death in March 2005 inside AJ's Hangar, since renamed the Ale House.

Krick, interviewed because he had been driving a cab for many years, said Kingston seemed to be experiencing more big-city violence.

"It just seems to be getting worse every year," Krick told the newspaper.

He questioned why party-goers were carrying weapons.

"The police are going to have to start patrolling this area better," he said.

Det. Sgt. Bill Kennedy said tips that might help police solve Krick's killing are still flowing.

"We are getting a number of tips and obviously we have to investigate each and every one of them and that's what we're doing," he said.

He would not say if any of the tips are promising.

Kennedy is the case manager, supervising six investigators who are working on the murder full time.

"There's nothing going on right now that we want to release to the media," he said.

Police are still waiting for forensic test results from Krick's taxi, Amey's car 71.

The blood-smeared vehicle was abandoned at an apartment complex on MacPherson Avenue Sunday morning, 15 minutes after Krick picked up his passenger and was stabbed.

Police arrived at the complex to see a suspect running from the taxi, but he eluded them.

Kennedy said an OPP tracking dog was brought in.

"He didn't lead us to anybody," he said. "I don't think he was able to pick up a trail."

Kennedy said it is a difficult location for a dog to pick up a trail, particularly because the suspect ran through a large asphalt parking lot.

It's believed Krick's slaying was a random act, since he wasn't requested by the caller who asked for a cab on Wright Crescent.

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