Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Amey's to install cameras

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Online:

The operator of Kingston's biggest taxi company says he will install surveillance cameras to protect drivers.

Mark Greenwood, owner of Amey's Taxi, owns 15 cars that operate with Amey's signs on the roof. There are roughly 90 cars in Kingston that carry the Amey's sign, but the bulk of them are owned and operated by independent businesspeople.

Greenwood said other owners also are installing cameras.

"I would say they're in about 25% of our cars right now or are going to be," he said.

Last week, an Amey's driver was stabbed by a passenger in the front seat who jabbed him in the chest with an X-Acto knife and then stole the cab. The driver was not seriously hurt, Greenwood said.

That taxi did not yet have any safety equipment.

Last August, the body that regulates and governs the local cab industry ordered car owners to install one of three safety options in each car: an external flashing emergency light, a shield separating driver and rear seat passengers or a camera.

The safety measures were ordered after an outcry by taxi drivers in the wake of the murder in 2007 of Amey's driver David Krick.

The lights cost $300. Barriers cost $700 and cameras cost $1,400 per car. The safety equipment must be installed within three years, or when the car is replaced, whichever comes first.

"I'm going to do what I feel would protect them best," Greenwood said. "Obviously I care about my drivers and if I do everything in my power to make sure they're safe, then I can sleep easy at night."

Greenwood said most owners have chosen to install the lights, which can be operated from inside the car by the driver. They are only useful if someone outside the taxi sees the flashing light and calls 911.

Greenwood said he's sold on the cameras. He cites recent statistics from Windsor, where there were seven violent incidents in taxis in 2007 and 11 incidents last year.

In February this year, the installation of cameras was completed in Windsor cabs. There have not been any violent incidents since.

Violent incidents, including robberies and assaults on drivers, have declined in most cities where cameras were widely installed.

"They're proven to work," Greenwood said. "I know people say it's not a shield, it just takes pictures and it helps the police catch them after the fact, but really it prevents them from doing it in the first place."

Greenwood said shields are problematic because they don't protect drivers from front-seat passengers.

In the incident last week, the fare got into the front seat, beside the driver, and stabbed him by leaning over and pushing the driver up against the door.

A 23-year-old man was charged in the assault.

A 31-year-old man was charged in the 2007 murder of Krick. The case is still before the court.

Copyright © 2009 The Whig Standard

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fellow driver calls for action

From the Whig-Standard online


More than two years after Shelley Scott desperately tried to breathe life into a dying fellow cab driver, she laments that cabbies continue to face the same hazards.

"The same stuff, over and over again," she said morosely yesterday.

"Something has to be done." Early Wednesday morning, a

veteran Amey's taxi driver was stabbed in the chest by a passenger wielding an X-Acto knife.

According to Amey's owner Mark Greenwood, the passenger reached around from the rear seat and jabbed the 60-year-old driver.

The wounded driver got out of the car and the assailant drove off in the taxi. He ditched the vehicle and was arrested a short time later as police swarmed the area. The cabbie escaped with minor injuries.

The incident is reminiscent, though with a different outcome, of another attack on a cabbie in 2007.

Early on Father's Day morning that year, Amey's driver David Krick picked up a passenger near the YMCA. Minutes later, Krick pressed a silent panic alarm that notified his dispatcher of trouble.

Soon after, he was found lying on a sidewalk on Durham Street, bleeding profusely from stab wounds to the chest. The killer had taken his taxi.

Scott, who was driving a taxi that morning, was one of the first drivers to find Krick after a call for help. Though horrified at the sight of the unconscious, bloody victim, she performed mouth to mouth while a police officer at the scene did chest compressions until paramedics arrived.

Krick, 50, died in hospital. A 31-year-old man was later charged with murder. A preliminary hearing in the case is still underway.

The incident mobilized Scott, among many other drivers, to lobby for safety measures for cabs.

In a decision made in August last year, the body that regulates the area taxi industry ordered all cab owners to install one of three safety devices in every car, within three years, or when the car is replaced, whichever comes first.

The cab owners must install a surveillance camera, a partition between driver and passenger compartment or an external emergency flashing light that can be activated by the cab driver.

Only partitions and cameras have been shown in other cities to improve driver safety. The external flashing light is considered by many experts to be a waste of time, since it is only useful if someone outside the taxi sees the light and calls 911.

"(Safety) needs to be revisited," said Scott.

She notes that the taxi business is stringently regulated to ensure customers are well served. Drivers, for instance, cannot smoke in their cars.

"It's about protecting drivers as much as it is about setting standards for the customers," Scott said.

Taxi driving is the most dangerous legal occupation in Canada, according to Statistics Canada figures.

Between 1995 and 2005, 25 cab drivers were murdered. In that period, 18 police officers were killed on duty.

Thirty-one year veteran driver Roy Ambury, who also writes a weekly magazine about the local taxi business, was robbed five years ago by a backseat passenger who held a knife to his neck.

Ambury escaped with minor injuries.

"The uptake on these (safety measures) has been slow because people don't see it as a problem," said Ambury.

Very few taxis are now equipped with cameras. No one in Kingston has installed a partition, Ambury said.

Only Amey's taxis are equipped with GPS tracking systems tied to the central dispatch. The system allowed police to find David Krick quickly in 2007.

"I'm really thankful that Amey's has the tracking system," said Ambury, who drives for Modern Taxi.

People who work in the business accept that there is a "background level" of problems for drivers, Ambury said.

"That background level is tolerated, dealt with, because otherwise, if everybody reacted to everything in an exaggerated way, then there wouldn't be any cabs on the road," he said.

After Krick's murder, many taxi drivers complained that the people who own cabs aren't concerned about the safety of drivers, but are worried that if they have to raise fares to pay for new gear, it will drive away business.

Timothy McGonegal, 23, is charged with attempted murder, robbery, and dangerous driving in connection to the stabbing Wednesday.

He remains behind bars.

Copyright © 2009 The Whig Standard

Thursday, November 05, 2009

November 2009

Click here to download this month's issue.

Queen's Bands

Man charged after taxi driver stabbed

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Online

A 23-year-old man has been charged with attempted murder after an Amey's Taxi driver was stabbed in the chest with an X-Acto knife around 3:15 a. m. yesterday.

The 60-year-old driver's injuries were not serious. He was treated and released from hospital.

"I talked to him (yesterday) morning and he's fine," said Mark Greenwood, president of Amey's Taxi.

"He wanted to drive (Wednesday night). I told him to take a couple of days off, but he wants to drive (tonight)."

According to Greenwood, the accused approached the driver, who was parked at the Canadian Tire gas bar at Princess Street and Bath Road, and asked for a drive to Napanee.

Moments later, the accused asked to use an Interac machine, so the driver pulled over at Princess and Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard.

At that point, Greenwood said, the fare reached around, hit the driver in the chest with his fist and ordered him out of the car.

"The driver said the guy didn't appear drunk or on drugs," said Greenwood.

After the driver complied, the accused drove the cab north along the boulevard before losing control of the vehicle, which ended up in a ditch near Hwy. 401.

By that time, police and canine units were on the lookout for the suspect.

He was arrested without incident, police say.

The man has been charged with attempted murder, robbery, dangerous driving and several other lesser charges. He appeared in bail court yesterday.

Coincidentally, this week marked the resumption of a preliminary hearing for a man accused of murdering an Amey's driver two years ago.

David Krick was stabbed to death while on duty June 16, 2007. Richard Edmund Smith is charged with first-degree murder.

"When a driver is assaulted, it's like an attack on your family," said Greenwood. "We are a family.

"Fortunately, (Wednesday's attack) turned out to be minor. I'm happy that it wasn't worse."

Copyright © 2009 The Whig Standard

Friday, October 09, 2009

News in Brief

From The Queen's Journal Online

Thanksgiving shuttle assesses student demand

This weekend, the AMS (Queen's University Alma Mater Society) will provide a shuttle bus between campus and the Via Rail train station to assess student demand for a bus travelling that route.

The shuttle is part of the executive’s campaign pledge for a new Kingston Transit route, AMS Vice-President (Operations) Leslie Yun said.

The bus will be paid for by the Bus-It program, a mandatory fee that gives students unlimited access to city buses during the school year.

It will run Friday and Monday and will be scheduled around incoming trains from Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.

In order to ride the shuttle, students have to pick up a free ticket at Tricolour Outfitters starting today, Yun said, adding that it’s now unclear whether the executive will fulfill its promise of a new route.

“This is a good opportunity to see what kind of demand it gets,” she said. “It will give us more concrete details to work with.”

Rachel Kuper

Friday, October 02, 2009

Accessible Taxis in Kingston

In the most recent issue of News From Behind the Wheel, Roy reported on the September 16 meeting to discuss Accessible Taxis in Kingston. More information about this meeting can be found by clicking the following links:

Draft report on Accessible Taxis from BMA Management Consultants

Questions and Comments from the meeting

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Cab fares may be on the rise

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Online

Taxi fares in Kingston could increase slightly in order to provide new wheelchair-accessible cabs for the handicapped under a draft report issued by the city this week.

The consultant's report suggests raising the "drop rate" - the fee charged to people getting into a cab - by five cents per trip to $2.85.

The money would be used to offset the costs of putting three vans equipped with wheelchair lifts and other specialized equipment on the road to serve the handicapped.

The vehicles would be operated by the city's private taxi firms and would supplement the Kingston Access Services bus, which is not available 24 hours a day and does not have the capacity to serve everyone who wants to use it.

The access service already uses taxis to supplement its coverage for people who are handicapped but still able to use ordinary cabs. A number of city buses also offer wheelchair access, but those also do not operate 24 hours a day and do not provide door-to-door service.

"We looked at a lot of different options, but we wanted to choose one that would not put the cost of these accessible taxis onto the tax base," said city commissioner Cynthia Beach, whose department commissioned the report.

The report notes that the city does not have dedicated handicapped taxis because they are a money-loser for companies under the current billing regime.

Outfitting them with lifts and other equipment costs $30,000 or more, they are more expensive to insure and use more fuel, adding $1,200 a month to the cost of putting them on the road.

Drivers don't like them because they run many fewer trips in a shift and take longer to load and unload passengers, resulting in fewer trips and lower earnings and tips for the drivers.

The report suggests by adding a nickel to each taxi fare in the city, the resulting revenue could be used to offset the costs of buying and running the specialized taxis, supplement the wages of the drivers who operate them and make accessible cabs economically viable.

"This approach offers the advantage of spreading the cost over a large customer base with limited [or] no impact on customers," the report concludes about the five-cent rate hike.

"It fully offsets the additional capital and operating costs of accessible on-demand taxi service which improves the economic viability and the sustainability of the service."

The consultants suggest issuing three accessible plates, one to each of the largest firms in the city, which would be enough to provide 24-hour service, seven days a week.

People can have their say on the proposal and read the draft report by following the links on the city's website.

The report will also be the subject of two public meetings next Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the downtown branch of the library between 2 p. m. to 4 p. m. and 7 p. m. to 9 p. m.

Copyright © 2009 The Whig Standard

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cab driver stabbed by passenger in Montreal

From the CBC Online:

A cab driver was in stable condition in hospital after he was stabbed by a passenger early Monday in Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-GrĂ¢ce district.

The driver picked up a woman on Marcil Street about 1 a.m. ET. Once she was in the cab, she stabbed him twice in the upper body.

Raphael Bergeron, a Montreal police spokesman, said the driver lost control of his car and struck a few parked cars before coming to a stop.

"The cab driver ran away from his car and the person that attacked him. So he went to the intersection of Sherbrooke and Marcil. That's where he found help and emergency services responded to the call very quickly, and located also the suspect that fled on foot."

Police said a 49-year-old woman could face charges of robbery, assault and attempted murder.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Teens get probation for failing to pay taxi fare

From the Whig-Standard Website

Cab driver's collaring of suspects ignites argument


Two teenage girls who tried to rip off a taxi driver for a $13 fare, then fought with him and got snarly with police after the cabby chased them down and caught them, finally had their day in court.

The teens, now 18 and 17 1 /2 years old, have both been placed on probation, the older one for nine months and the younger one - who was charged in addition to violating probation - for 12 months. Each of them has also been ordered to perform 30 hours of community service and to pay $6.50 apiece in restitution to the court for the taxi fare they tried to avoid paying.

The teens were set to go to trial this week but pleaded guilty just before noon on the day of their trial to committing transportation fraud. Their pleas were made after a deal was struck between assistant Crown attorney Janet O'Brien and the father-and-son defence team of John and Chris Ecclestone.

O'Brien noted that she was agreeing to the deal partly because the case had already been set for trial on three previous occasions and Each time the victim had taken time off work to attend court.

Still, O'Brien said she wanted other young people to get the message that they can't assault someone who's making a citizen's arrest in defence of their rights.

Her comment struck a nerve with Chris Ecclestone, who represented the younger of the two girls.

He reacted as though his client was the victim.

"I would have serious concerns about taxi drivers getting the message that they can't chase people into houses and drag them out," he told the judge.

John Ecclestone went even further, suggesting that the cab driver's apprehension of the pair "had all the earmarks of a kidnapping." He also argued that the man needed a warrant before he followed his fleeing passengers into the apartment building and then held them for police.

O'Brien had told Justice Judith Beaman that the crime was committed after the cab driver was dispatched to pick up a call in the Cherry and Pine streets area.

It was 12:30 in the afternoon on June 27, 2007, and the girls at first told the driver to take them to Food Basics on Barrack Street. Then they said they wanted to go to the liquor store across the street.

When they reached their destination, however, the person they were expecting to meet wasn't there and the girls belatedly disclosed that they had no money to pay for their ride.

O'Brien said they convinced the cab driver to return them to an apartment building on Cherry Street, where he was promised they would get him his cash.

Beaman was told the cab driver insisted that one of the girls remain with the cab while the other went inside for the money. The older of the two stayed behind.

After only a few minutes, O'Brien said, the older girl suddenly bolted from the cab and ran into the building, the cab driver in pursuit.

She told the judge that he caught up with the pair at the end of a hallway, heading for an exit, and grabbed them to return them to his cab while he called police.

Beaman was told that the girls didn't go quietly, however. They kicked and screamed, scratched the taxi driver and one of them tried to bite him.

They were later described by police as abusive and unco-operative with the officers who arrested them as well.

The Ecclestones both maintained that their clients hadn't initially set out to shortchange the cab driver, even though they didn't have any money to pay for a cab when they first called Modern Taxi.

John Ecclestone said his client went to the LCBO that day expecting to be met by a woman she referred to as her "street mother." The lawyer told Beaman she thought she had an arrangement with the woman to meet at that spot and expected to be given some cash.

The problem arose, he said, when her "street mother" was "a complete no-show."

He also observed that the assault charges originally laid against his client and her friend had not gone ahead, causing him to bristle at the suggestion that any delay in bringing the case to trial was attributable to the defence.

In fact, he said, had there been no resolution and the case hadn't gone ahead this time, he would have brought a motion to have the charges shelved because of unreasonable delay in its prosecution.

Beaman finally stepped in to referee, telling the lawyers "we double-book all the time." She suggested the delay that caused wasn't anyone's fault.

She appeared to agree with the younger Ecclestone that the cab driver should not have chased the girls into the apartment building, but she told the girls,"you should not have got into the cab without the money to pay for it."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cab owner defends driver

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Website


The owner of Kingston's biggest cab company says one of his drivers has been unfairly criticized after passengers he was ferrying savagely beat a man on Bath Road.

"I think what he did was appropriate," Mark Greenwood, owner of Amey's Taxi, said yesterday.

Greenwood said the driver did what was necessary to protect himself in a volatile situation.

He said the company has received calls and complaints from people who wrongly want to blame the driver.

"He is shaken up," Greenwood said. "He's also a little concerned that one of these guys is going to be looking for him."

The driver was heading east on Bath Road about 1 a. m. Sunday after picking up six men in his van at a west-end bar.

They appeared agitated and were looking for a friend, but left the bar before finding him.

As the taxi approached Tanner Drive, the cabbie heard one of his passengers say, "There he is," and the sliding door of the van began to open.

The driver pulled over and watched two of his passengers stumble across the road to where two men were fighting. Four men remained in the taxi, Greenwood said.

The cab driver was frightened by what he saw, as the three assailants pummelled a victim for about a minute.

"He just witnessed a really brutal assault," Greenwood said. "He wants to get them out of the van as soon as possible."

The three men who had participated in the assault got back in the taxi and the cab driver pulled away. He could see that other cars had stopped, including another taxi, to help the victim of the attack.

The cabbie assumed that one of those other people who had stopped was calling police.

The driver feared he'd be assaulted if he called 911 or if he tried to eject the drunken passengers from the taxi.

"He didn't want to agitate anyone in the vehicle by trying to contact the police himself [or put] his own life in jeopardy when he knew the guy was going to be looked after and that someone had probably called the police," Greenwood said.

Before the cab reached its destination, police pulled it over on Concession Street, where they arrested the three men who participated in the assault.

Greenwood said police had called the Amey's dispatch office and the taxi was quickly located because it is GPS equipped.

The victim of the attack, a 28-year-old St. Lawrence College student, suffered a host of injuries, including a possible broken nose.

His assailants were charged with assault causing bodily harm.

Copyright © 2009 The Whig Standard

Monday, February 09, 2009

Two men beaten in brutal attacks

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Website

Student, cabbie victims of assaults

A St. Lawrence College student was sent to hospital early yesterday morning following a brutal beating in the city's west end.

It was the second violent attack police investigated on the weekend. A 43-year-old Kingston man is facing assault charges after a attacking a cab driver early Saturday morning.

The college student wasn't robbed, but his attackers left him lying bleeding and beaten in a snowbank along Bath Road, police said.

The three men arrested and charged in the assault were drunk at the time, police said, and had never met the victim.

"Nobody knew him. These guys just picked him out," said Sgt. Alex Forsyth of the Kingston Police.

Forsyth said one of the attackers didn't even recall the attack after sobering up overnight in a police cell.

Police said the victim had gone to Ottawa with some friends for a stag party and returned to a home on Days Road before deciding to call it a night. He told his friends that he was going to walk home.

The 28-year-old man, who is from Kingston, was walking along Bath Road near Tanner when the attack took place.

Police said the victim heard someone run up from behind him before he felt a blow to the back of his head. The attacker then punch him in the face.

An Amey's taxi pulled up near the attack and let out two men. Police said the two men grabbed the victim and held him to the ground while the original attacker punch the victim in the face and body.

The beating r about a minute, police said, before the men hopped back into the taxi and drove off.

T he victim was left in the snowbank

with a deep cut on his lip, severe bruising to his temples, a possible broken nose and burns from being rubbed against the roadway, police said.

A witness at the scene called police. Officers were able to stop the cab carrying the three assailants. Forsyth said officers noticed blood on the men's hands, clothes and footwear.

Two of the men are 24 years old, the other 36. All are from Kingston.

They were taken for a bail hearing yesterday. The three men have been charged with assault causing bodily harm.

Police said the taxi driver was not involved in the attack.


Police said the attack on the cabbie early Saturday morning stemmed from a dispute over the fare for the ride, which amounted to less than $8.

Police said a Kingston and Amherst Taxi driver picked up a fare around 3:50 a. m. Saturday at Concession Street and Leroy Grant Drive. The passenger told the driver to take him to a home on Rosemund Crescent near Sir John A. Macdonald and John Counter boulevards.

When the taxi arrived at the home, the male passenger started a dispute over the cost of the ride -$7.50. Police said the passenger then confronted the driver and became violent.

Police said the man threatened to harm the driver, even shouting at one point that he would "punch [the driver] out."

Police said the passenger then grabbed the driver and hit him several times in the side of the head with a closed fist.

The attacker then grabbed the keys out of the ignition of the car and threw them into a nearby snowbank. He then grabbed the victim by his hair and started punching the driver in the head again as the attack tside the vehicle.

The driver was able to push the man into the snowbank, which slowed the attacker down for only a moment, police said. The attacker stood back up, police said, and ating on the taxi driver.

Police said two females in the area pulled the attacker off the driver before officers arrived.

Police said the driver had a bloody lip and marks from punches visible on his temple.

Police said the 43-year-old accused was drunk. He was held in a police cell overnight and released with conditions, with a date to appear in court in March.

Copyright © 2009 The Whig Standard