Livery Cab Murders
When I responded to a shooting of a livery cab driver several weeks ago I realized that the tragedy surrounding these types of crimes were not isolated to the actions of the criminals, but it also includes the appalling silence of many New Yorkers. No other profession in the city would have undergone a large number of homicides without an instant response from many decent New Yorkers and City Hall. Even the Livery cab sister drivers, yellow taxis, would have received appropriate attention if their number of homicides were similar. It is troubling to believe that the common denominator for many of the victims is that they are non-white and many are immigrants. Have we forgotten that these drivers are willing to go into the economically deprived areas of the city and provide a service regardless of the ethnicity of the customer even when yellow cab operators have not displayed this level of service. This fact adds to the reasons why many of us, including my organization, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, should have spoke out against these crimes against livery drivers, just as we spoke out against the high number of yellow cab operators who refused to pick up non white passengers.
Of course speaking out is not enough. The goal is to alleviate, if not eradicate the dangers surrounding this occupation. Any attempt at a quick fix will not accomplish this goal. Our organization believes there are three primary areas of focus. The first is for the Police Department to aggressively examine police reports involving livery shootings and robberies. It must be determined if there is some sort of pattern or diabolic act such as gang initiation involved. This issue is of importance because far too many drivers were shot either prior to or after turning over their receipts. It is also important because it compels the Police Department to reexamine having decoy cops act as livery drivers. To put a plan like that in place will be placing police officers, particularly non-white officers, in an ambush situation.
The other areas of focus involve City Hall in that the city should absorb some of the cost that is associated with making a livery cab safe. Livery drivers, who are barely making enough to make ends meet, are compelled to work in unsafe livery cabs. The city should absorb some of the cost for cameras, partitions, etc. Livery cab owners, who do not drive their own cabs, are reluctant to foot the bill for these items. This leaves hard working drivers to absorb the risk but not the profit.
The final area of responsibility lies with the drivers themselves. Livery drivers must not place profit over their safety. An examination of police records will reveal that many crimes against drivers stem from street hails. Drivers must become more safety conscious and obey the existing law, which dictates that it is illegal to pick up street hails. We must also examine creative proposals such as caller ID in base stations and allowing drivers to request ID from passengers during those times of the evening that are designated crime hours. It is only through the joint cooperation of city agencies, livery owners/operators, and concerned citizens, will we put a halt to the brutal slaying of livery drivers. The first step is to end the deafening silence.