The number of alleged sexual assault incidents involving taxi drivers in Halifax this year has raised alarm bells for both police and those in the taxi industry.
On Saturday, a 20-year-old woman called police at around 3 a.m. and reported her cab driver had kissed her and touched her in a sexual manner.
Police later arrested the 44-year-old male driver on Barrington Street. He has been charged with sexual assault and is scheduled to appear in Halifax provincial court on September 8.
The municipality confirms the man’s taxi driver’s licence has been suspended pending the outcome of the police investigation.
“In all three incidents, it involved young women between the ages of 20 and 25. And they’re all occurring in the early morning hours in the downtown area of Halifax,” said Halifax Regional Police spokesperson, Lauren Leal.
The frequency of the allegations has come as a shock to Bob Richard, who has driven a cab in Halifax for 47 years.
“It’s been happening and it’s never happened before,” Richard said.
“We don’t know who’s driving what nowadays and what character they’re from. A police check don’t mean nothing nowadays.”
Incidents prompt calls for taxi commission reinstatement
Richard has been calling for the reinstatement of the municipality’s taxi commission, something District 11 councillor Steve Adams agrees with.
Adams chaired the commission until 2010, when it was replaced by the Transportation Standing Committee.
He says the commission’s monthly meetings that focused on the taxi industry and its partners would be more effective in addressing serious issues in a timely manner.
“We’re not psychologists by any stretch of the imagination but that would be the opportunity to ask drivers, ‘how do we deal with this, what can we do to prevent these types of incidents, or alleged incidents if you will, from recurring?’ Perhaps a refresher course on what’s appropriate and what isn’t,” he said.
Meanwhile, police are reminding passengers to be alert when taking a cab.
“It’s a good idea to take note of the roof number. I know a lot of people actually take photos before they get into a cab just to have that on record,” said Leal.
“If you’re getting into a cab, to get into the back seat, for the safety of both the passenger and the driver. It’s always good practice.”
Police are also encouraging any other potential victims to come forward.
“The best thing we can do as police is investigate, to hold these people accountable and make sure that they aren’t able to do it again,” said Leal.