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

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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