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Halifax taxi sex assaults: What are police doing about 14 cases over 5 years?

Halifax police say 12 sexual assaults involving taxi drivers have been reported in the past five years, five of them having happened this year.
Halifax police say 12 sexual assaults involving taxi drivers have been reported in the past five years, five of them having happened this year. Gero Breloer/THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/

EDITOR’S NOTE: Halifax Regional Police originally reported that 12 sexual assaults had been reported in taxi cabs over the last five years. 

Halifax Regional Police (HRP) say 14 sexual assaults have been reported involving taxi drivers since 2012 — five of those have happened so far this year.

Police released the numbers Monday in an effort to both keep the public informed and to outline the response of city police “so people are aware of what we’re doing to address the issue.”

READ MORE: Fifth Halifax woman reports being sexually assaulted in taxi

In response to the recent spike in reported assaults, HRP say the Crime Analysis Unit did a thorough analysis of similar reports over the past five years, finding:

  • 2012 — three sexual assaults reported
  • 2013 — one sexual assault reported
  • 2014 — one sexual assault reported
  • 2015 — four sexual assaults reported
  • 2016 (to date) — five sexual assaults reported

HRP says they’ve been able to identify six suspects in seven of the 14 cases, with charges being laid in five.

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Three of the cases were closed citing “lack of solvability,” however police say those cases could be reopened if more information comes in. One case was closed at the victim’s request.

Commonalities found

The investigators found commonalities in both the driver descriptions as well as the women who have reportedly been targeted.

Driver descriptions

All offenders have been described as men, aged 30-50 with dark hair. Most spoke with an accent.

Behaviours

Women between the ages of 19 and 25 were the targets in 11 of the 14 cases. Most of them were sitting in the front seat when the alleged assault took place.

Investigators also found that the drivers only targeted victims who were alone in the taxi.

READ MORE: Halifax taxi industry in ‘crisis’ after sex assaults

In a number of incidents, the driver was said to have asked personal questions and attempted to flatter the passenger.

Many of the drivers also insisted that the passenger not pay for their ride either before or after the alleged assault.

In 10 of the 14 situations, the offender touched the woman sexually over her clothes during the taxi ride and at the destination. In some cases, the offender attempted to kiss, or forcibly kissed the woman, and tried to pull her close to them.

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Time, place 

The incidents all happened between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. The majority were on weekends and during the spring and summer months.

Police say most of the offenders picked up their passengers in the downtown area.

What are police doing?

Officers say they’re taking a multi-faceted approach to addressing the reported sexual assaults, which they say they’re taking very seriously.

The Sexual Assault Investigation Team is working with limousine and taxi service providers in the city to thoroughly investigate each report.

READ MORE: ‘We’re deeply concerned’: Halifax taxi industry on sexual assaults

Beat officers assigned to the Downtown Safety Strategy are engaging with staff and patrons downtown to gather any information they can on suspicious activity.

Officers offer the following advice when it comes to taking cabs in the city:

  • Call a taxi instead of hailing one — this provides a record of the request and which cab was dispatched.
  • Make note of the taxi company name and roof light number. Additionally, make note of the both the taxi license and driver license photo (which should be clearly visible).
  • Be sure the taxi has a meter — if it doesn’t get out and call 311 to report an illegal taxi.
  • Sit in the back seat and on the right side of the car — that puts the most distance between passenger and driver, providing safety for both parties, additionally it’s curbside in the event a passenger needs to make a quick exit.
  • Have your phone handy.

Police are also working with taxi operators in the city, advising them to report any suspicious behaviour they encounter.

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They’re also advising them to tell drivers to insist lone passengers sit in the backseat and on the right-hand side.

Police also reiterated that any woman who has been sexually assaulted has done nothing wrong, and has the right to believe taking a taxi is safe.

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