The police officer leading a new operation to prevent sexual offending in Northamptonshire’s town centres is issuing a reminder to those travelling by taxi – always verify the driver is licensed to carry passengers.
Operation Kayak was launched last month and non-uniformed officers are now carrying out patrols in hotspot areas of the county’s towns. In doing so, they have become aware of a few instances where people have masqueraded as taxi drivers but are, in fact, operating illegally.
Detective Inspector Liz Basham, who is leading the operation, said: “Ideally you should pre-book your taxi through a reputable company but if you do hail a taxi on the street or get in a cab at the taxi rank, always check there’s a taxi licence on display - take a look at it and make sure it looks professional. If there’s no licence, don’t take that taxi.
“Officers on Operation Kayak patrols are seeking to identify those displaying predatory or suspicious behaviour like loitering, leering, sexual harassment and inappropriate touching and when they see it, they will act quickly. This includes anybody purporting to be a licensed taxi driver.
“If you see someone acting suspiciously, please call Northamptonshire Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency or approach an officer. If you are out and feel unsafe you can also speak to the nearest pub or club staff member for assistance too.”
The police have put together a few safety tips to be considered by the public before travelling by taxi:
-Is the car in decent condition? Taxis are required to be mechanically healthy, so if it looks like it could fall apart, chances are it’s not licensed.
-Are they confident taking you to your location?Yes, they might not be 100% sure where your address is, especially if you live in a tiny road in the middle of nowhere, but they should be able to get you roughly there without directions. If they can’t, they may not be licensed, as taxi drivers are required to have knowledge of the local area.
-Has the driver skipped the queue to pick you up? That’s a sure sign they’re probably not licensed.
-If you’ve hailed the cab on the street, are they a Hackney carriage? If not, they’re not allowed to pick you up on the street, and you shouldn’t use them.
Operation Kayak is a joint effort with officers working alongside CCTV operators, Community Safety Partnerships, door staff, fast food outlets and others working in the night time economy.