Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cabs to test security cameras; Technology used in other Ontario cities

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Website:

Jordan Press
Thursday, August 16, 2007

Local News
- Three Kingston cabs, one each from Modern, Amey's and Kingston and Amherst Taxi, will be equipped with security cameras as part of a test to see how the devices work with drivers and passengers.

The cameras, in use in municipalities such as Toronto, take photographs of passengers inside the vehicles.

The move comes after the killing in June of a Kingston cab driver.

Doug Cox, who chairs the committee looking into the potential safety measures, said the local industry wants to see if the cameras would be cost effective for Kingston.

Also, he said, the committee wants to see how passengers react when they find out they may have their photo taken while in a cab.

"That's why we're taking our time with the cameras and with the rest of the stuff," said Cox, owner of Kingston and Amherst Taxi.

Some passengers may feel uncomfortable, he said. "This is why we've got to be cautious. We've got to take this one step at a time."

The committee gave its recommendations yesterday to the taxi commission, which regulates the local industry. The seven-member commission will have the final say on any measures to be implemented.

Cox said a safety course and any other mandatory safety features will be accepted by the taxi commission in time for license renewal on Oct. 1.

Keeping taxi drivers safe on the job has been a priority for the commission since the killing of David Krick.

The 50-year-old Amey's driver was stabbed to death and left to die on Durham Street in the early hours of June 17. He had picked up a passenger on Wright Crescent shortly before the stabbing.

Fellow drivers and emergency personnel found Krick bleeding to death on the sidewalk. He was pronounced dead in hospital.

Krick was the first homicide in Kingston this year and the first cab driver to be killed on the job.

His killer fled in the cab, parked it at an apartment complex on Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard and evaded police. Kingston Police are still searching for the killer.

Before yesterday, the only recommendation that was publicly announced was an educational program designed to teach drivers how to be safe on the job.

A 12-member committee, made up of taxi company owners, drivers and members of the taxi commission, has been reviewing what safety measures may be necessary in Kingston. At the moment, Kingston cabs don't have cameras, although Amey's has installed global positioning systems in its cabs.

Results from an industry survey found that drivers were most interested in a safety course, Cox said. Second on the list were cameras in cars, followed by emergency lights on the rear of the vehicle and, finally, protective shields that separate driver from passenger.

The committee received 120 completed surveys.

"The safety awareness is the big issue," Cox said. He said others in the taxi industry across the country told committee members that the majority of the time, staying safe depends on how the driver handles themselves in a dangerous situation.

The cameras were seen largely as a measure to deter dangerous advances on drivers, he said.

"Everybody feels that if something does happen, there will be a picture to show the person in the car," Cox said. That picture would go to police to aid in their investigation.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Man who confronted cabbies in court; Twenty-one-year-old accused of threatening to kill two taxi drivers

From the Kingston Whig-Standard website:

Rob Tripp
Friday, August 03, 2007

Local news
- A man accused of threatening to kill two Kingston taxi drivers was to appear in court today to face charges of uttering death threats.

The incident comes six-and-a-half weeks after a Kingston cabbie was killed by a passenger.

The confrontation happened around 8 a.m. yesterday after an Amey's taxi delivered a woman to a house on Elm Street, where an argument began between the woman and a man.

When the female taxi driver intervened, the man threatened to kill the cabbie. The driver activated a silent panic alarm that alerted other cabbies and they rushed to her aid.

"I was about the third car there," said driver Shelley Scott, who was also one of the first cabbies to arrive after mortally wounded driver David Krick called for help.

"It certainly brought my heart into my throat," Scott said. "It was very reminiscent of June 17."

At least half a dozen taxi drivers arrived at Elm Street within minutes and confronted the agitated man. At one point, he retrieved something from the home and began threatening to stab the cabbies with a sharp object covered by a bandanna.

"It turned out to be a ballpoint pen and he was wielding it like a knife," said Const. Mike Menor of Kingston Police.

The swarm of cabbies contained the man until police officers arrived and arrested him.

The 21-year-old man, whose name was not released, also is charged with breach of probation. He was held in custody until a bail hearing set for this afternoon.

During the confrontation, police say the man threatened to kill another driver.

None of the cabbies was injured.

The 39-year-old driver first threatened yesterday, a veteran Amey's driver, did not want to be identified by name out of fear of retribution.

The assailant also threatened to hunt down and kill her family.

Menor said the man was acting strangely and appeared to be very angry and extremely agitated.

He said police rushing to the scene yesterday had difficulty getting there because the streets were clogged by taxis that had responded to the distress call.

Scott said the incident is a reminder that taxi drivers need action quickly to improve their safety.

"It just seems like we're not being taken seriously," she said.

Most Kingston taxis do not have any safety measures for drivers, save for the panic buttons in Amey's cars, which are equipped with global positioning systems.

After Krick's slaying, the local taxi commission struck a committee to study safety ideas. It will report on Aug. 15.

Kingston Police are still hunting Krick's killer.

The 50-year-old veteran driver was stabbed and left on the sidewalk to die by a male passenger he picked up early on Father's Day morning.

Kingston Police have said they believe the killer has had help in eluding capture.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Man charged for threatening to kill cabbies

From the Kingston Whig-Standard website:

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Local News
- A 21-year-old Kingston man has been charged with uttering death threats after a man threatened to kill two Amey's taxi drivers.

The man was arrested shortly after 8 a.m. on Chatham Street and is being held in custody. He has a bail hearing Friday.

Police say a female cabbie drove a woman to an address on Elm Street, where a confrontation began involving the man. When the cab driver intervened, the man threatened to kill her. The cabbie activated a silent panic button that brought at least half a dozen other cabbies rushing to her aid. At one point, the agitated man wielded a pointed objected that was covered by a bandana, threatening to stab people. It turned out to be a ballpoint pen. He threatened to kill another driver who had arrived to help. Police arrived within minutes and the man was taken into custody. He also is charged with breach of probation.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cabbies must receive safety training:group; Proposal to be pitched to taxi commission

From the Kingston Whig-Standard website:

Rob Tripp
Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Local news
- Kingston's taxi industry is poised to introduce mandatory safety training for drivers and other measures following the first murder of a city cabbie.

A committee of 12 people comprised of taxi company owners, drivers, and members of the taxi commission has agreed that education should be compulsory.

"Safety education is going to happen," Doug Cox, owner of Kingston and Amherst Taxi and the chair of the committee, said in an interview Monday.

There are no current mandatory safety measures for Kingston cabs and drivers.

The safety committee was established by the commission in late June. The commission is the independent body that regulates the industry. Committee members have been meeting behind closed doors for the past two weeks and have decided on measures to be proposed, Cox said. The seven-member board of the commission will have final say.

Cox expects the education portion will be approved by the commission without problems, since the idea was widely endorsed by the industry. The committee surveyed taxi drivers and owners.

"There's a few other things but I can't really comment right now," he said.

The committee has considered the use of safety shields or partitions, video cameras and other alert systems such as flashing exterior lights.

The education plan is likely to include a safety video and booklet all taxi drivers will be required to review yearly before they are licensed.

Shields and cameras are commonplace in many large cities across North America. Cameras are mandatory in Toronto taxis, where their introduction is credited with dramatically reducing the number of robberies.

The introduction of mandatory partitions in taxis in New York City cut the homicide rate for cabbies from more than 30 per year to almost zero.

Cox would not say which other measures the committee plans to recommend to the commission. The proposals should be made public at the commission's next meeting on Aug. 15.

Commissioner Doug Teeple, who also sits on the safety committee, wants to see all the measures instituted quickly.

"I think it should happen before Christmas," he said.

Teeple, a former cabbie, said the holiday period can be the worst time of the year for drivers who confront drunken and belligerent passengers.

Many taxi operators and drivers have expressed skepticism about the need for partitions or shields in Kingston cabs, even after the killing of Amey's driver David Krick.

The 50-year-old Kingston man died on June 17 after he picked up an early morning passenger on Wright Crescent.

His attacker left him on the sidewalk on Durham Street a few minutes later. He was bleeding profusely from stab wounds to the chest. Krick was pronounced dead in hospital.

Kingston Police are still hunting his killer, who stole his taxi and abandoned it a few blocks away.