British Transport Police (BTP), Network Rail and Unite the Union (Cab Section) are launching a new scheme at Leeds station aimed at improving the safety of taxi drivers and passengers who use their services at the station.
The ‘Taxi Watch’ scheme, will aim to help prevent crimes being committed against drivers, who, due to the nature of their work, can often be the victim of violence, aggression and criminal damage, sometimes racially and religiously motivated.
Every driver will meet an officer and be given a text 61016 card so that they can report any incident direct to BTP. Officers will be undertaking high visibility patrols at the taxi ranks at key times, including in the early hours of the morning when incidents have been reported and will also hold regular meetings with the drivers to discuss any concerns and issues. Posters will be placed in and around the station and at the taxi rank, and stickers will be placed on taxis that use the station outlining that any aggression or violence towards drivers will not be tolerated, that CCTV is covering the area, and there will be a police response.
The main aim of the scheme is to build a stronger relationship between the drivers and BTP to continue to ensure that the taxi area of the station remains a safe and a positive environment for everyone, that BTP provide an increased security presence for drivers and passengers, and to raise public awareness by adopting a zero tolerance policy to tackle violence against taxi drivers.
In September last year a taxi driver was assaulted by a man who demanded he take him home, even though he had another passenger in the car. When the driver refused the man became verbally abusive, swearing and threatening the driver before kicking the side of his taxi. When the driver got out to check the damage he was hit in the face by the man. The man was then dragged away by someone he was with and both fled the scene.
In January a taxi driver was racially abused and attacked by a passenger outside the station. After he was asked to join the back of the taxi queue by the driver when he attempted to push in, the man shouted racist abuse at him before kicking the wing mirror off his car.
When the driver got out of the car, the man punched him in the face leaving him with a bloody nose, bruising and swelling. He was arrested and was found guilty at court, where he was ordered to pay £750 in fines and compensation.
Chief Inspector Lorna McEwan from British Transport Police said:
“Since January 2017 we have recorded 15 offences against drivers at the station, that’s on average one a month which is just not acceptable.”
“We have also surveyed drivers who use the station which shockingly revealed that 69 per cent said they have been threatened or attacked, 53 per cent of these incidents took place at night or on a weekend.”
“This research clearly shows that our figures don’t match up and that taxi drivers are reluctant to report crimes to the police, especially if they are victims – we hope that this scheme will increase confidence and encourage them to contact us.”
“We already have a great working relationship with the taxi drivers who use the station but this scheme is about going that one step further. We want to reinforce the message that we will take a tough stance against anyone who commits a crime against them, investigate every offence and provide them with full support.”
“Taxi drivers also provide extra eyes and ears at the station and report any suspicious activity or incidents to us which is great and we hope that the scheme will develop these links further.”
“We will be working closely with partners from Network Rail, Unite, West Yorkshire Police, taxi associations and Leeds City Council to implement the scheme.”
Vicki Beadle, Community Safety Manager at Network Rail, said:
“It’s completely unacceptable for anyone to face violence or aggression at Leeds station, whether that’s taxi drivers, passengers or station workers and we work incredibly closely with British Transport Police.”
“This new scheme with both British Transport Police and Unite the Union will further build on this and will help to create a nicer environment for all station users.”
Paul Ladau from Unite Cab Section in Leeds said:
“We are pleased to partner with British Transport Police and Network Rail on this new scheme that puts the welfare of Taxi Drivers squarely back on track. The commitment shown by all involved is refreshing to see and be part of. A step forward such as this can only cement the good relations enjoyed between both Taxi Drivers, British Transport Police Officers and Network Rail Employees.”
“The safety of Taxi Drivers is always a prime concern working alone at all times and especially the dangerous hours; but now with a dedicated scheme in place, that isolation in the event of a problem or the uncertainty it brings are removed. We hope the scheme will go from strength to strength and that a once ‘faceless’ working environment become less likely and everyone’s eyes and ears be open to watch, listen, learn and build on this to ensure protection for everyone at Leeds Train Station “
You are invited to attend the taxi rank at the front of Leeds railway station at 11am on Thursday 24 May for the launch of the campaign.
CI Lorna McEwan, Paul Ladau from Unite Cab Section and Chris Gee, Head of Operations Delivery from Network Rail will be available for interview.