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.

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