Thursday, June 28, 2007

Frustrated cabbies want action; But taxi agency sets up committee

From the Kingston Whig-Standard

Rob Tripp
Thursday, June 28, 2007

Local News
- There'll be no quick fix for safety concerns of Kingston taxi drivers.

A week-and-a-half after cabbie David Krick was slain, the agency that regulates the industry in Kingston met yesterday for the first time.

Safety was debated for roughly five minutes during an hour-long meeting, long enough only for the Kingston Area Taxi Commission to set up a 12-member committee to study safety options and report back by mid-August.

"They did that because they'll calm down and then nothing will be done," Derek Barager, a driver and taxi owner said in an interview after the meeting.

Barager and his wife, Amy Wright, who also drives a cab, came to the meeting expecting to hear a discussion about safety measures.

"I thought this meeting was supposed to focus on what happened to Mr. Krick," said Barager, one of about a dozen taxi industry spectators at the meeting.

On Father's Day, the veteran Kingston driver picked up a male passenger on Wright Crescent near the YMCA just after 6:30 a.m. The man stabbed Krick in the chest several times and left him, bleeding on a sidewalk on Durham Street, before stealing his taxi.

Krick, 50, was pronounced dead in hospital. Police have not made an arrest.

"I never considered my job dangerous until now," Wright said. "Now I'm questioning everybody that hops into my cab."

Driver and owner Dennis Keefe, who was appointed to the committee, said he expected some serious debate yesterday.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "I think it should [be] done a whole lot sooner than that."

Amey's taxi company owner Mark Greenwood, who will sit on the committee, said the group has to consider the opinions of drivers and owners, look at what is being done in other communities and talk to suppliers of safety gear.

"I think you need this much time," Greenwood said, in order to make the right decision.

Modern owner Keith Campbell and Amherst owner Doug Cox also are on the committee.

"I think that a safety barrier would have saved Dave Krick's life," said Roy Ambury, a longtime driver and one of three who were standing together and chatting after the commission meeting.

"I'm not voting for it," said driver and owner Lillian Dunlop. "I do not want a barrier."

Seventeen-year veteran driver Ed Vervuuvt said he's made up his mind.

"The barrier is the only surefire way to protect yourself," Vervuuvt said.

Ten years ago, Vervuuvt picked up two nervous young men on York Street. One got in the backseat, the other sat beside him. They pretended that they were waiting for a third man.

Vervuuvt felt what seemed a slight brush or tickle on his neck.

"I was reaching up to scratch and saw the spark and felt the jolt," he said.

The backseat passenger had pressed some sort of electrical stun device on his neck.

Vervuuvt's body spasmed and his arms flailed, striking the front seat passenger in the face.

Startled by the reaction, the would-be robbers fled without taking anything.

Both Ambury and Dunlop were appointed to the safety committee.

Dunlop said shields or barriers that separate drivers from passengers aren't a guarantee of safety and they will curtail personal contact and erode customer service.

Three years ago, Ambury had a close call after a backseat passenger tried to rob him.

"He put his left arm around the front of my neck and held a knife to the back of my neck and demanded my money," Ambury recalled.

The driver pushed the knife away and tricked the man out of the taxi. He escaped with minor cuts to his palm.

Ambury was disappointed that there was no safety discussion yesterday, although he said this might be the best way to handle the issue.

The committee studying safety will meet for the first time July 3. It is scheduled to report to the taxi commission by Aug. 15.


Committee of 12 appointed

The Kingston Area Taxi Commission appointed 12 people yesterday to study possible safety improvements for cabs. They are:

Doug Teeple (from commission)
Linda Wood (from commission)
William Percy (from commission)
Mark Greenwood (Amey's)
Doug Cox (Amherst)
Keith Campbell (Modern)
Merle Harper
Dennis Keefe
Lillian Dunlop
Roy Ambury
Leo Ferneyhough
Debra Timmons

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