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.
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