THE taxi industry is infiltrated by criminal elements and requires quick surgical measures and rescue before it surrenders completely to organized crime, which appears on the rise. The industry is in a state of flux and an unbelievable mess, one that does not lend itself to providing safe and quality service to the public.
Take the case of taxis’ involvement in serious crime. This is not once, twice, thrice but most of the times. There is no doubt that some taxis are part of organized crime and their being part of the industry is a totally unacceptable situation.
They drive around during the day as if to drop customers in the various suburbs while in actual fact gathering intelligence on security measures at the homes of people, as well as identify valuables that they can lay their dirty hands on.
These rogue taxis carefully study peoples’ movements in these suburbs while also determining safe routes to take during the execution of crime, as well as to get away. For some of the taxis, their main business activity is not the ferrying of customers to their destinations, but to identify businesses and homes that can be looted.
There is sufficient evidence to indicate that some so-called taxis are simply a ruse. Their main pre-occupation is the commission of crime. Police indicate though, that in the majority of cases, the drivers and not the owners are involved in crime.
Recently, the home of former MP, Nora Schimming-Chase was broken into by suspects who were using a taxi with the marking V68. Police pursued the men, shot one dead and arrested three others.
In another incident, a prominent businessman, Martin Shipanga, was attacked at his home. His assailants used a taxi to get away. There are many incidences of crime being committed by people using taxis, including the transportation of stolen goods by taxis as well as armed robberies.
This is not to say that the majority of taxis are involved in crime. In fact, the opposite is quite true. Take the case of a taxi driver who according to reports was stopped by men who, wanted him to transport some goods from a house that had been broken into. The taxi driver drove off when he suspected that the goods being loaded were stolen.
Another taxi came by and took the men and their loot away. The first taxi followed the second and wrote its number down. This taxi driver gave the number of the second taxi to the police who later found the thieves in a drunken state and arrested them.
This is a good example of a true taxi operator, one that would stop at nothing to protect not just his customers but also the general public. Incidences of taxi involvement in crime are just too many and the owners of taxis have to take drastic steps to ensure that they hire the right people for the job.
Apart from involvement in criminal activities, many taxi drivers are guilty of crimes and misconduct against passengers, judging by the number of complaints raised in radio talk shows and SMSes in newspapers.
Examples of crimes include verbal and physical assault, sexual harassment of female passengers, unsafe driving such as using cellphones while driving and misconduct such as disputation over directions and overcharging.
Picking just but anybody from the street is a big risk for owners and users of taxis alike. Taxis are an essential mode of public transport that cannot be surrendered to wolves in sheep’s skin. Owners have to take control and make sure that their taxis are in safe hands and the members of the public who use them.
Also, more regulatory resources need to be deployed, including security provisions such as CCTV cameras at taxi ranks, regular checks on taxi and driver ID numbers, regular criminal record checks by Nabta and city authorities, which are all long overdue measures.