In the wake of the robberies and assaults on taxi drivers in the Lisson Grove area, TaxiPoint has contacted Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick with a view to investigating how cabbies can be afforded greater protection as well as looking into how the crimes are being investigated. The e-mail reads as follows:
My name is Steve Kenton, I am a licensed London taxi driver with over a quarter of a century of service behind me. I am also one of the editors of TaxiPoint, an online trade publication serving the taxi industry across the UK.
Over the last couple of years there have been a number of robberies against taxi drivers perpetrated by groups of youths in the Lisson Grove area of West London, a number of which have been violent in their nature.
The gang's modus operandi seems to be quite straightforward, one person hails a taxi, they then inform the driver that a person is in a wheelchair and needs assistance, the driver then leaves the vehicle to give assistance, he or she is then subsequently robbed.
Up until recently, these robberies were opportunist in nature, and in many cases could have even been termed as distraction thefts. Unfortunately over the last few months they have become more calculated and violent.
Last week, in another attack, a driver had his vehicle pelted with missiles, including bricks as well as other building paraphernalia, causing extensive damage to a two week old vehicle.
In a seemingly common thread, post-attack, there is a lack of police response pertaining to these crimes. Drivers are being urged to call the police and report these incidents, but there seems to be little or no reaction.
I, along with many others within the taxi industry feel that it is only a matter of time before a taxi driver, or a passenger, is seriously hurt, or worse.
Worryingly, there seems to have been reports of "copycat" attacks around the Kensington area, these may or may not be connected to the Lisson Grove attacks, it is however unsurprising, given that these individuals seem to be able to operate with impunity, it would only be a matter of time before incidents like these spread.
It is appreciated that the Metropolitan Police have an incredibly difficult task in fighting crime across London, and it must be accepted to some degree that these crimes, up until now have been seen as a "low-level" crime, but there is a groundswell of feeling in the industry that there needs to be some positive action taken to alleviate the situation, with a clear line of communication as to how these crimes are being investigated between the police and the industry.
Those who work in London's taxi industry should be afforded the same level of protection as all other workers in London's public transport sector, free from fear of abuse and assault.
It seems that because the taxi industry is made up of approximately 23,500 self-employed individuals, the right to work free from fear seems to be somewhat diminished as opposed to others working within the public transport sector, with asssults and incidents involving taxi drivers seemingly treated less seriously.
Driving a taxi is potentially a dangerous profession, you are alone, you are handling cash, you are dealing with the unpredictability of the public, you are dealing with other road users, cyclists, pedestrians, the list is endless. In some respects the individuals that the police have to deal with are no different to the individuals that the taxi industry have to deal with, there are however two major differences. When things take a turn for the worse in dealing with the public, the police are fully protected and are able to call for immediate assistance.
Commissioner Dick, i am urging you to please look into the problems that are being faced by the taxi industry in the Lisson Grove area, including how these crimes are being investigated and whether more can, or should be done to tackle these gangs.
I look forward to your response.
Please feel free to contact me if you require any assistance or information.