Being careful and vigilant

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - November 28, 2014 - 12:00am

'Tis the season to be careful. Several incidents of taxi drivers robbing their passengers have made the news. One incident involved a driver who just started working for a taxi company. He robs his passenger, along with an MMDA traffic enforcer, even taking the latter's motorcycle. In another incident, a taxi driver robs his female passenger, who fights back. He shoots her four times, hitting her once in the arm before dumping her. The victim was fortunate to cheat death. I believe angels were watching over her. The manhunt is on for the criminal, while the earlier driver has already been caught.

This may be the trend that authorities are worried of with the coming holiday season. Criminals assume that people are loaded with cash from their bonuses, and are headed to the malls. The fact that criminals are now using in-demand taxis to find victims is alarming indeed. Which is why the LTFRB is planning to put up measures to fight crime involving cabs. Why they wait for a surge in crime before thinking is a useless discussion.

A new ID system wants to be implemented, along with a database containing all known taxi drivers and the companies they work for. In the case of the driver that just started working for the company, the LTFRB held them liable. They were asked what parameters they use to screen their drivers, which they apparently glossed over. This is where most problems start. Companies just want their units to hit the road and bring in the cash, no matter who is behind the wheel. A thorough screening of applicants must be made, along with the usual documents such as the different clearances. Aside from that, an ID must be prominently displayed containing all of the necessary information such as the driver's name, photo, address along with the name of the company, address and plate number of the vehicle. Because this is not enforced, victims of robberies can only recall the taxi's name, and not the driver. If psychological tests are needed, so be it. In other words, the company is responsible for the drivers they hire, especially when they engage in crime using the company's vehicles.

But this may be all good for large taxi companies. What about the small players who only have one or two units in their "fleet"? Do they follow the same parameters and safeguards as the bigger companies? They should. Failure to do so should entail fines and even suspensions of franchises. But the LTFRB is not known for having a stellar record in that aspect.

It eventually boils down to the riding public to be both careful and vigilant when riding in cabs. I would suggest taking a picture of the driver before riding. In this selfie-driven society, almost everyone has a camera. If the driver objects, then that is a red flag right away that merits authorities to be informed. Most mall guards log passengers, their destination and the name and license plate of the cab when they queue up in their taxi stands. Again if the driver objects, red flag. Many cabs in other countries have CCTV cameras inside their vehicles. Drivers also report via radio their destination when they have a fare. I would think that if a cab company employed the same systems, their cabs would be more sought after than everyone else's, which translates to good business.

Crime prevention is everybody's business. Authorities just cannot be solely relied on to provide a safe environment for the riding public. We need to be careful. Nothing ruins a holiday season more than to be a victim of a crime.


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