February 5th, 2015 | Sterling

Creepy Cabbies Driving Up Crime Stats

No Taxi License, Big Problem | SterlingBackcheck

A 26-year-old Montreal woman got more than she bargained for when she did the responsible thing and called a cab to take her home after a night out at a downtown bar. According to the woman, the taxi driver made inappropriate comments during the ride and once they arrived at an intersection near her home, he attacked her in the back seat.

Her statement and description of the driver matches three other recent incidents reported to police. Montreal police are warning women in the area about the assaults and suggesting that they avoid taking cabs alone. They are also recommending that women limit their alcohol consumption to ensure that they remain in control. But is that a viable solution? Should women have to drink less and use the buddy system in order to safely get home? Or is there something that employers or government can do to help protect women from sexual assault? Surely a woman should have the right to go out for a social drink, hail a cab, and get home without being attacked.

According to Quebec Transport Minister Robert Poëti, there is no process in place to verify the criminal records of individuals who are applying or renewing their taxi licenses in that province. This means that the person chauffeuring you around could have a lengthy rap sheet filled with driving offences, assault charges, or worse. Poëti confirmed that change is underway and that background checks will be required for permit renewals.

It’s not just Montreal that has had a problem with the conduct of taxi drivers. A driver in the Waterloo region was convicted of sexual assault after he made sexual comments and groped a 17-year-old passenger when she was short by a few dollars for her cab fare. What’s even more disturbing is that the trial revealed that the accused driver was still operating his taxi after being charged. And this isn’t the only incident that the city has seen. The rash of sexual assaults by Waterloo cab drivers has triggered the Waterloo Region Taxi Association to install cameras in taxis as a measure to prevent drivers from inappropriate behavior or criminal acts.

Although cameras may work well as a deterrent, the first step that licensing boards and cab companies should take is to develop a thorough screening policy and conduct background checks on all drivers before they get behind the wheel. Additionally, background checks should be conducted at set intervals to ensure that drivers are staying out of trouble and do not pose a threat to public safety.

Equally important to conducting background checks is regular review of the screening policy. The background screening industry is ever-evolving and technology continues to pave the way for newer, more innovative ways to conduct background checks. There are frequently new services and features available to enhance the consistency of background checks and reduce the time it takes to conduct them.

Police are still searching for a suspect in the string of Montreal taxi driver assaults so it is unknown whether or not he has a criminal record. But one thing is certain: background checks are a much-needed part of taxi driver licensing and will help prevent future assaults from occurring.

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