The Blessing of the Taxi Fleet
Risks and crime prevention
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a two page factsheet assessing risk factors and preventive measures. From the factsheet: "Taxi drivers are over 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers."
See also the similar May 2000 violence prevention assessment from OSHA.
OSHA Factsheet: Risks and Preventive Strategies
Taxicab and livery drivers are 60 times more likely than other workers to be murdered on the job. In May 2000, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration prepared a two-page fact sheet on taxi safety. It is the single most authoritative statement on homicide risks in the taxi business and the recommended preventive strategies.
The homicide risk factors for taxi drivers are:
- working with the public
- working with cash
- working alone
- working at night
- working in high-crime areas
The recommended preventive strategies include:
- automatic vehicle location or global positioning systems (GPS) to locate drivers in distress
- caller ID to help trace location of fares
- first-aid kits for use in emergencies
- in-car surveillance cameras to aid in apprehending perpetrators
- partitions or shields to protect drivers from would-be perpetrators - must be used properly to work effectively
- protocol with police owners and police need to track high-crime locations and perpetrator profiles
- radios to communicate in case of emergency e.g. open mike switch
- safety training to teach drivers, dispatchers, and company owners protective measures
- silent alarms to alert others in the event of danger e.g., bandit lights
- use of debit/credit cards i.e., cashless fare systems to discourage robbers
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
June 11, 2013
Effectiveness of Taxicab Security Equipment in Reducing Driver Homicide Rates
Cammie K. Chaumont Menéndez, PhD, Harlan E. Amandus, PhD, Parisa Damadi, BS, Nan Wu, MS, Srinivas Konda, MPH, Scott A. Hendricks, MS
(Am J Prev Med 2013;45(1):1-8)
From page 5 of the article:
"These data support the hypothesis that installing cameras in taxicabs results in a reduction in citywide taxicab driver homicide rates post-installation (seven times lower homicide rate) and compared to cities with neither cameras nor partitions (three times lower homicide rate). The data do not support the hypothesis that cities with partitions installed in taxicabs experience lower taxicab driver homicide rates than cities with neither cameras nor partitions. This is the first study to methodically collect data from a nationally representative sample of the largest taxicab cities over a 15-year time span that allows for comparison of rates pre- and post-installation of cameras."
Cammie K. Chaumont Menéndez, PhD, Harlan E. Amandus, PhD, Parisa Damadi, BS, Nan Wu, MS, Srinivas Konda, MPH, Scott A. Hendricks, MS
(Crime Science 2014, 3:4)
Journal of Transportation Technologies July 2014
Shengke Zeng, Harlan E. Amandus, Alfred A. Amendola, Bradley H. Newbraugh, Douglas M. Cantis, Darlene Weaver
(Journal of Transportation Technologies, 4, 216-255)
Researchers from the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health took more than 10,000 photographs of human-face charts in a simulated-taxicab with various photographic resolutions, dynamic ranges, lens-distortions, and motion-blurs in various light and cab-seat conditions. The authors recommend that taxicab security cameras have minimum resolution of XGA-format, highlight-dynamic-range of 1 EV, twilight-dynamic-range of 3.3 EV, lens-distortion of 30%, and shutter-speed of 1/30 second.
- Taxicab Board of Manitoba report Cameras Effective in Reducing Taxicab Crime, presented to the 17th Annual Conference of the International Association of Transportation Regulators by Lou Harries, Chair of the Manitoba Taxicab Board and by Jerry Kozubal, Secretary of the Taxicab Board (55kb Word document). See also Official Notices regarding mandatory installation of both cameras and partitions in all taxicabs on the website of the Manitoba Taxicab Board.
Front and back views of a Janus digital camera head, one of several models on the market.
- Cameras deter criminals and aid in the apprehension of perpetrators.
- Modern taxicams record high-resolution color video through both a forward-facing lens and a rear-facing lens. Infrared sensors allow images to be captured even in a darkened cab at night.
- Taxi fleet managers report quick recovery of camera costs because the video can disprove fraudulent claims. Insurers may offer discounted liability insurance for camera-equipped taxicabs.
- Cameras protect drivers from false accusations of assault.
The Effectiveness of Taxi Partitions: The Baltimore Case by Dr. John Stone of the Southeastern Transportation Center concluded that "an unshielded Baltimore taxi driver in 1991 was five times more likely to experience assaults." Partitions are also cost effective. From the same report: "A related economic analysis yielded a 17-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio of estimated savings from reduced injuries versus the costs of citywide shield installation."
The Manitoba Taxicab Safety Shields Report of November 1991 offers a comprehensive review of issues involved with partitions, still relevant many years later.
This view from the front seat shows a partition's sliding window unlocked and open. The change tray is visible at the left. A screw-on aluminum clamp attached to the upper rail limits the distance that the window opens, in this case to about 4 inches.
- Partitions prevent the most common high-risk scenario, which is an opportunistic attack from behind. Inexpensive and low maintenance, bullet-resistant partitions are appropriate technology for small operations, which comprise the majority of the taxi industry. They can be installed by a mechanic in 30 minutes.
- Partitions are a familiar sight to travelers. They are used in tens of thousands of cabs in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, London, Sydney, Shanghai and many other places.
- Listen to a recorded seat belt reminder for a partitioned cab, and read about positive customer response in San Francisco.
Putting a face on taxi homicide statistics
Taxicab driver Ahmed Hussein Ahmed, pictured above, was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota during 2003. View the photo section on the Memoriam page.
Why do they kill cab drivers?
This 62 year old man was arrested for the murder of a taxi driver in Portland, Oregon. Read "Why do they kill cab drivers?", an essay with photos on making sense out of "senseless murder."
How many drivers are killed each year?
View a larger version of the chart.
This chart shows annual totals for 678 occupational homicides of US taxicab and livery drivers between 1994 and 2013. The average throughout the period was about 34 per year. The data are drawn from the taxicab driver Memoriam List which is maintained on this site. The Memoriam List is based primarily on press reports of cab driver homicides. This chart of the last twenty years does not show the much higher levels that occurred in the early 1990s, e.g. 76 homicides in 1991. Those high numbers were largely due to livery driver homicides in New York City prior to implementation of strong crime prevention measures in 1994.
Training materials and research
An illustrated 24-page color printable training brochure is Tips for Taxi & Livery Drivers: Dealing with Workplace Violence. The brochure is courtesy of Western Iowa Tech Community College and was developed under a Susan Harwood grant from the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- Another well illustrated safety brochure is the 16-page Your guide to a safer workplace - Victorian taxi driver safety produced by the Victorian Taxi Directorate's Department of Infrastructure.
- Worksafe Victoria has a 2-page handout titled Safety in the taxi industry - for drivers. A similar handout is titled Safety in the taxi industry - for operators, networks and depots.
- Safety guidelines from taxi trainer and former police officer Gord Barton: Driver mind set for safety; Tips for Taxi Driver Safety; and Dressing for Effectiveness and Personal Safety.
An exploration of seasonal variation in taxicab homicides. Based on six years worth of data, the incidence of homicide appears to be greater at some times of the year and lower at other times.
- Crime Prevention Recommendations For Cab Company Owners, Drivers and Dispatchers from the St. Petersburg (Florida) Police Department, August 2008. (380kb PDF)
- Three crime-prevention essays from Kingston (Ontario) drivers Roy Ambury and Allan Kleywegt, June 2009.
- Robbery of Taxi Drivers, March 2005 community policing guide for US police departments from the Department of Justice by Martha J. Smith, associate professor of criminal justice in the School of Community Affairs at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas. (336KB PDF document)
- "Streetwise: How taxi drivers establish customers' trustworthiness" is a 2005 book based on the experiences of taxi and livery drivers in Belfast and New York City. It is the result of a study by UK researchers Diego Gambetta and Heather Hamill; see "Signalling and Mimicking Trustworthiness: Taxi Drivers and Their Customers in Dangerous Cities" published by the Russell Sage Foundation.
For an insightful chart and discussion of the causal sequence and intervention points in cabdriver assaults, see "Assault and Homicide as an Occupational Hazard for Taxicab Drivers: A Hazard Management Approach" by Julie A. Holston
- Violent Assaults on Taxi Drivers, by Claire Mayhew, Australian Institute of Criminology, dated November 2000. (PDF)
- Preventing Assaults on Taxi Drivers, by Claire Mayhew, Australian Institute of Criminology, dated November 2000. (PDF)
- From the Driver's Seat a Safety Report by London, Ontario Taxi Drivers
- Taxi Driver: Worst Occupational Hazard in Minneapolis, 2003 paper by Mia Lor
Police poster issued following the murder of San Francisco taxicab driver Paul Stine. The same person is wanted for the murders of at least five other people.
- Defensive Driving, Being a cabbie is one of the most dangerous jobs in America, by Rose Farley, Dallas Observer, 9 December 1999
- Gypsy Cabs: A Hard, Chancy Life on the Side Streets of New York by Raymond Hern in the New York Times.
- Most Dangerous Jobs in New York: Gypsy Cab Driver by Richard Marosi, from Columbia University News Service
Pattern in taxi homicides
The typical fatal scenario is a night time shooting from inside the cab. Most of the deaths are due to head or neck injuries, and most of the assailants are in their teens. The following are the main findings from the report "606 Taxicab Driver Homicides, United States and Canada, 1980-1994" by Charles Rathbone.
- 94% of the attacks occur when the driver is inside the cab.
- 85% of the fatal injuries are gunshot wounds.
- 82% of the assaults occur at night.
- 74% of the deaths are due to head and neck injuries.
- 64% of the deaths are from gunshots to the head.
- 66% of the assailants are under age twenty.
- 47% of the assailants act alone.
- 25% of the assailants are outside the cab.
Case study: New York City
Good evidence for the effectiveness of a partition-or-camera policy comes from New York City. In the early 1990s there were 40+ drivers killed each year. Now there are almost no murders, thanks in large part to mandated safety equipment in virtually all of the 50,000+ cabs and liveries.
The data sources for this chart are TLC statistics and and press reports.
Partitions were required for all medallion cabs and for some liveries beginning in 1994, and either a partition or camera for almost all of the remaining liveries in 2000. See the March 2000 press release authorizing in-vehicle digital camera as an alternative security device to satisfy the For-Hire Vehicle partition requirement. A September 2000 TLC industry notice gave details about municipal funding of the city's partition-or-camera program. Of the 13,550 requests for reimbursement, 73% were for partitions. Beginning in 2006, hybrid-model medallion cabs, which tend to be smaller vehicles, are allowed to use cameras instead of partitions.
Crash statistics from New York City reveal that passenger injuries went down steadily every year following the introduction of partitions in 1994. Read a synopsis of the results and see the full report by transportation consultant Bruce Schaller.
New York's cab safety policies go well beyond requiring safety equipment, including at one time assigning hundreds of police officers to work full-time on cab safety. NYC medallion cabs are almost all long-wheelbase Crown Victoria Fords, a model that was designed specifically to facilitate the use of a partition.
View of a long-wheelbase NYC medallion cab with a partition installed.
The compelling lesson from New York is that a policy of requiring either a partition or a camera has worked very well, in conjunction with municipal funding for the equipment, and in conjunction with other crime prevention measures. It is a clear formula for success in preventing homicides against taxicab drivers.
New York City, once notorious for taxi driver murders, is now arguably the safest city for cab driving in the US.
A NYC minivan taxi with a partition, January 2008.
From the Taxi and Limousine Commission minutes of February 26, 2004
"Captain Sbano then stated that it was the opinion of the New York City Police Department that partitions were a very sound crime prevention strategy and they would like to see them continued. Commissioner Dean then asked if cameras were better than partitions. Captain Sbano distinguished between preventing crime and using means after a crime has occurred to identify the perpetrator. Captain Sbano stated that it was better to prevent the crime from occurring in the first place."
Proposed redesign of NYC taxicab partition. Image by Antenna Design New York Inc. Courtesy of the Design Trust for Public Space. See also Designing the Taxi for more on the future of the NYC taxicab.
Case study: Winnipeg
The murder of driver Pritam Deol on July 17, 2001 led to the mandatory installation of taxi security cameras and partitions in 2002. In addition, about 80% of taxicabs have a global positioning system that can identify a cab's location in the event of an emergency.
The partitions used in Winnipeg are half-shields that protect against attacks from behind. They are made of a less rigid material compared to the bullet-resistant partitions used in US cities. All drivers receive mandatory training in use of the cameras.
Winnipeg's determined response to crime led to a 79% reduction in robberies during 2003 compared to 2001. What's more, the arrest rate in robberies and assaults against drivers rose from 35% in 2001 to 50% in 2002 and to 66% in 2003, a result attributed to images of criminals obtained by taxi security cameras. As of July 2006, there have been no further driver homicides since 2001. Arguably Winnipeg taxicabs are the safest in North America.
-Photo by Richard Kellie
Winnipeg half-shields attach to the back of the driver seat. They move forward and backward with the seat.
-Photo by Richard Kellie
Digital security camera head mounted over the rear-view mirror in a Winnipeg taxicab.
Case study: Boston, Baltimore and Los Angeles
Boston required partitions decades ago in response to driver homicides. Murders have since become rare, with the most recent being in 1993. Baltimore mandated partitions at the request of industry leaders in 1996, also in response to driver homicides. That city's experience led to the best-documented case study on partitions. See the statistical analysis by Dr. John Stone in his report, "The Effectiveness of Taxi Partitions: The Baltimore Case." Similarly the City of Los Angeles required partitions in all its licensed taxicabs during the 1990s. As in Baltimore, the Los Angeles switch to partitions was initiated by an industry leader. The taxi homicides that occur in Baltimore and Los Angeles are almost invariably among unlicensed or out-of-town cabs.
Case study: London
All London licensed taxicabs (but not minicabs) are equipped with factory-installed partitions. The clear plastic screens are attack-resistant, but not bullet-resistant as in the US. Originally a passenger privacy feature, the partitions provide a significant level of security for drivers as well. Homicides are extremely rare among London's tens of thousands of licensed cabs.
An LTI London cab partition in a left-hand drive version of the vehicle.
Case study: San Francisco
Cameras were installed during April of 2003 following a highly publicized series of robberies. The reported number of robberies and carjackings declined in 2004 but went back up to prior levels in 2005. Police investigations were hampered in 2005 due to technical issues with the cameras that resulted in a high percentage of cases (more than 50%) in which no image could be recovered from the camera following an attack. The cameras were prone to undetected breakage of internal wire connectors. Spot checks conducted by the Police Department in late 2005 revealed that many cameras had become non-functional.
San Francisco taxis are now equipped with a later generation of advanced high-resolution forward- and rear-facing digital video cameras. The devices are very conspicuous to passengers. Despite a large increase in the size of the taxi fleet, there were no homicides in licensed cabs between 2006 and the time of this writing in Summer 2017. A fatal attack occurred in an unlicensed cab in 2007.
Twenty-seven San Francisco taxicab drivers were slain between 1947 and 2018.
- Wai Keung (John) Tsang, 2007, unlicensed cab, 30th Avenue and Santiago
- Musharaf Poswal, 2006, Yellow Cab, Bayview at San Pablo, City of Richmond
- Sukhpal Singh Sodhi, 2002, United Cab, 24th Street and Folsom
- Munther Salman, 1999, Yellow Cab, 1700 Truman Street, City of Richmond
- Gennady Penskoy, 1998, United Cab, Sunnydale and Sawyer
- Daljeet Singh Ghotra, 1997, Yellow Cab, Laguna and Ellis
- David Hayes, 1993, City Cab, 1000 Parkside, City of Richmond
- Richard Harcos, 1992, Luxor Cab, 200 block of Blythedale
- Parminder Singh, 1992, Yellow Cab, Funston and Lake
- Andrew Lee Scott, 1991, Yellow Cab, Maddux and Quint
- John B. Coleman, 1989 (d. 1993), Yellow Cab, Farragut Street
- George Oppenlander, 1988, Yellow Cab, Barneveld and Sweeny
- Leonard Smith, 1986, Allied Cab, an unknown location in the Western Addition
- George Ring, 1984, Yellow Cab, Scott and Grove
- Albert H. Hohl, 1981, Luxor Cab, Eddy and Scott
- Michael Albert, 1977, Veterans Cab, Watchman Way
- Robert Duran, 1976, Eagle Cab, 18th Street and Linda
- John Dadian, 1975, DeSoto Cab, near Seal Rock Inn
- Gene DiLabbio, 1974, Yellow Cab, Chestnut and Kearny
- Roland J. Canfield, 1973, Yellow Cab, Noe and 27th Street
- Fred J. Hooper, 1971, Yellow Cab, Newcomb near Lane
- Charles Jarman, 1970, Yellow Cab, Jackson Street in Pacific Heights
- Paul Stine, 1969, Yellow Cab, Washington and Cherry
- Victor J. Zarchinski, 1967, Luxor Cab, near 122 19th Avenue
- Samuel Bergman, 1963, Yellow Cab, near Park Merced
- John K. Dearth, 1948, 25th Street and Capp
- Earnest A. Pinataro, 1947, Bluebird Cab, Newcomb near Quint
A search of SF newspaper records going back to 1921 turned up no reports of taxi driver homicides prior to 1947. This list includes one driver who died four years after his injuries and two slain outside the city limits. Not included are two deaths in the 1970s identified as possible cabdriver homicides by the SF Medical Examiner's Office.