Cabbies Concerned About Safety After Taxi Driver Murder

5:22 PM, Jun 5, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- This hearing had been planned long before yesterday's shooting. But that incident shifted the focus of today's hearing from passenger safety to driver safety.

One of the first things DC Councilmembers wanted to know was how many times have cab drivers been robbed, assaulted, or killed?

To their surprise, the DC Taxicab Commission did not have those numbers.  

Councilmember David Grosso could not believe the chairman of the DC taxicab commission would come to this hearing without hard numbers.  He said, " If you don't know this on the top of your head, how do you fix the problem?  This is the kind of thing I would imagine you would be working on every single day trying to figure out how to solve this, whether it be driver safety or passenger safety.  Wouldn't you know this stuff?." 
Councilmember Jim Grahm represents the ward where taxi driver Solomon Okoro was shot and killed while on the job. He said, "We must make a commitment today to protect the cabbie."
" We've gone through such a long running discussion about the problems of African-American males being able to hail cabs in the District... and this highlights one of the reasons why people who drive cabs are afraid to do so," he said. 
The Taxicab Commission was already in the process of putting "panic buttons" in all cabs.  

Today, the chairman said if only they had finished installing them sooner.  

Another system to accept credit and debit card payments will be up and running in two months, which would mean cab drivers won't have to carry as much cash.   

But Councilmember Graham wants more.

He's considering safety windows to separate taxi drivers from their passengers, like they have in New York City. But that comes with its own problems.    
"Many of the drivers own their own vehicles and they use them for purposes other than a public vehicle for hire and do not want to have a window that is separating them from their back seat," he said  
"We are left today with the issue of solutions.  Let's come up with some solutions," said Councilmember Grahm.

The Chairman for the Taxicab Commission responded, "We will. We will be working on it."
The other focus of today's hearing was passenger safety. The DC Taxicab Commission says that 80% of all complaints come from women and 25% of those complaints come from tourists.

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