Friday, March 06, 2009

Taxi Company Plans to Install Cameras into Cabs

A cab company in Waterloo Region plans to install surveillance cameras after a man with a "military-style" knife robbed three drivers.

City Cabs drivers were hit three times in the past week. The latest robbery occurred Monday just before 10 p.m. when a driver picked up a man at Fairview Park mall and drove him to a mall on Frederick Street.

The other robberies happened overnight last Wednesday -- one on Frederick Street and one on Westwood Drive. In each case, the drivers picked up a man at one location and drove him to another, where they were threatened and robbed.

No one was hurt in any of the incidents, but in each case, the robber had a knife and got away with cash. Waterloo regional police believe the same suspect is connected to all three robberies.

Tihomir Popovic, a manager at City Cabs, said the robber in all three cases pretended to reach for his wallet but instead pulled out a "large, military-style" knife as he demanded money. The robber also took the drivers' keys so they couldn't chase him down.

"We're telling them, 'Don't be a hero, just give him your money,' " Popovic said.

He added his drivers are worried and "want protection."

Popovic said he will begin installing video surveillance cameras in taxis this weekend. As well, drivers will only carry $50 at a time in their cars.

Erecting screens between the back and front seats is also an option, although not one Popovic prefers.

"We drive people. We don't drive animals,"he said. "If you put in a screen you don't have that personal contact with them (passengers)."

Dan Sibley, manager for Golden Triangle Taxi in Cambridge, said several of his cars already have cameras "for the drivers' protection."

One of his drivers tried using a protective screen but took it down shortly after because it "keeps you separate from the customers," Sibley said.

More people got away without paying because they felt the driver couldn't easily get to them. Cameras are more effective, Sibley said.

"People tend not to run or do anything that can incriminate them."

Dave Byers, manager of United Taxi, said many of his cars also have surveillance cameras, some so small they're hidden in rear-view mirrors.

"It's a deterrent," he said. "If they get into a cab and see a sticker that says the car has video surveillance they won't do anything. If they do, they're foolish."