Police hope advance taxi payment will reduce crime

Taxi driver Andy Kay.
Taxi driver Andy Kay.

Passengers may soon be asked to pay for their taxi journeys in advance in a new campaign to cut thefts from drivers.

Members of Lancaster City Council’s licensing committee were due to meet today, Thursday, to discuss proposals to approve an amendment to the rules, regulations and procedures for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing.

The sticker which taxi drivers would be able to display in their vehicles.

The sticker which taxi drivers would be able to display in their vehicles.

This would allow proprietors to display a sticker in their vehicles which has been provided by Lancashire Constabulary as part of their Safeguarding Taxi Drivers Campaign and endorses any request from the driver to the passenger for a pre-payment of the fare.

The scheme came as a result of Lancashire Constabulary carrying out some work in relation to civil disputes, which showed that taxi-related incidents had been identified as a key demand.

Incidents have been taking up a lot of police time countywide and the police say they are trying to spread their resources better.

One of the recommendations from their work was that the police should provide a consistent message to taxi drivers and encourage pre-payment of fares in order to prevent not only making off without payment offences but also associated crimes which may be initiated by payment disputes, such as assaults, theft and damage.

The police are therefore recommending that a sticker be placed in all licensed vehicles, which would allow the driver to refer to it when asking for pre-payment and the endorsement from the police would add credibility to the request.

Taxi drivers are already able to ask for payment up front, but the police feel a sticker endorsed by them would assist drivers when making that request.

A police spokesman said: “The idea is that working with local licensing authorities, official window stickers will be given out to drivers to help push towards taxi pre-payment.

“By encouraging taxis to ask for payment up front we hope to reduce the risk of incidents of making off without payment, civil disputes and also crimes associated with lack of payment, such as public order, assault and criminal damage.

“The scheme should also help to reduce the demands on police officers dealing with such incidents linked to taxi fare payments.”

However, Lancaster taxi driver Andy Kay, who is chairman of the Lancaster City Hackney Proprietors’ Association, said he doubted the move would make any difference to taxi drivers.

He said: “We have been able to pre-charge for ages. The concern within the trade is that this is just a way for the police to avoid getting involved.

“At the moment we usually only do it for longer journeys. I wouldn’t dream of setting off on a long journey without having the money up front.”

Mr Kay added that some of the local taxi firms already take payments up front for fares over £20, including card payments.