Toronto Taxi Driver gets mobbed at Eglinton Square Mall

Taxi service providers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. A 55 year old Toronto Ambassador driver is lucky to be alive after he was attacked by a group which consisted of a man, two women and two children at the Eglinton Square Mall this past Friday.

(WireService.ca) -- Taxi service providers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. A 55 year old Toronto Ambassador driver is lucky to be alive after he was attacked by a group which consisted of a man, two women and two children at the Eglinton Square Mall this past Friday. The Ambassador cab driver was punched and knocked to the ground headfirst over what appears to be a fare dispute. He required emergency medical attention and is expected to make a full recovery.

These forms of physical and mental assaults happen more frequently than are reported. What most cab drivers dread the most is, losing their lives while doing their jobs. Taxi workers all over the world face this threat constantly.

There have been 24 homicides involving Toronto cab drivers since 1917 according to the Taxi Driver Memoriam List. The last Toronto taxi operator to be murdered on the job was Mahmood Bhatti. Since the City of Toronto mandated in 1999 the use of security cameras in taxis, there have been four homicides. The brave men who lost their lives in the line of duty are Mohammadullah Saighani 30/12/99, Mohamed Nakib-Arbaji 21/4/2003, Morteza Khorassani 6/9/2005, and Mahmood Bhatti 2/5/2006.

There is no doubt that security cameras have deterred would be assailants from acting up. There are lots of things that can be done to protect taxi workers everywhere, especially here in Toronto.  17 percent of murders committed against taxi drivers happened after the 1999 taxi reforms which mandated security cameras.

Nearly 200 Canadian cab drivers have lost their lives while offering taxicab services. Many of these crimes have not been solved. Anthony Ekunah's murder remains an unsolved cold case from June 30, 1991. Although I did not know him personally, we both worked from the same cab garage. I remember being so upset about his death and 21 years later the culprit or culprits are still free. Mohamed Nakib-Arbaji's murder also remains cold and unsolved.

As an industry we have to rethink our methods of providing safety and security for our taxi workers. New York City credits the drop in the slaying of cab drivers to the effectiveness of a partition-or-camera policy which was mandated in the early nineties. From 1988 to 1994 there was an average of 38 homicides involving New York City taxi and livery drivers. The average now is about seven since 1994. There are about 50,000 plus cabs and liveries in New York City alone.

The prospect of a losing a single life by going to work should not be acceptable in our society. We need to find unique ideas to curb these threats which hang over the heads of taxi operators. In 2000 when New York City decided to implement their partition-or-camera policy, the City paid for it.

We have the opportunity in Toronto to design a safety plan for the men and women who provide taxi services. We should devote a lot of our resources to this topic to come up with a solution which is unique to our circumstances.

We need to revisit the partition idea. Black cabs in London have had factory installed partitions for decades. The partition was meant to allow passengers to have privacy, but there is ample evidence to suggest that black cabs have very little incidents of violence.

Apart from this, the industry should establish an extraordinary working relationship with the police. I am afraid this is not the case in Toronto. We have to copy what Denver police and their taxi industry is doing to serve and protect. A similar program was in effect here in Toronto 20 years ago and we need to bring it back.

Finally, all taxis, particularly independent taxis, must have the ability to alert the police silently with a GPS guided apparatus whenever they encounter a stressful situation.

The vicious attack on the Ambassador taxi driver on Friday should remind all providers of taxi services how vulnerable we all are. We hope the bandits are apprehended and brought to justice quickly. This is why it is so important that all taxi workers participate in the 2012 Taxicab Industry Review armed with innovative ideas which will transform our industry in a positive way.


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