Thursday, October 07, 2010

It Continues...

A previous comment shot down a few of my solutions as unworkable and too expensive for cab companies to follow.

Lo and behold, this story awaited me.

What's it going to take to make some real changes? The original story that I quoted yesterday touted "stricter background checks" for taxi drivers, yet further down in the story the police claim that legitimate cab drivers haven't been attacking and robbing passengers.

So what the fuck is anyone actually doing? Nothing, as usual.

My previous post suggested tangible solutions for real problems that are facing Athens, the cab companies, and their passengers. A girl was raped Wednesday night. There's a number of other rapes that have happened in previous least that we know about.

What would have happened if cabs were more easily recognizable? If they could only pick people up at designated stops downtown, patrolled by police officers or legitimate security? If each cab was required to have a backward facing camera in operation to show the driver and their passengers?

I think you would find that police would have actual leads to follow for violence that happens in cabs. They would have a picture of the suspect to start their investigation from for things like what happened Wednesday night to that girl.

A few years back, I found an underaged girl on the sidewalk after 2am, drunk and completely unable to take care of herself. As she sat half conscious on the curb on the sidewalk, I rooted through her purse, found her phone and called everyone on her recent call list. She hardly even noticed what I was doing. Her "friends" either didn't pick up the phone, or said they were too drunk to come get her.

I won't even start on everything that was wrong with that situation, but suffice to say, I shooed away several police officers trying to "investigate" - they surely would have taken her to jail for being underaged - and finally hailed a cab down sometime before 3am. Putting her in the cab and making the driver wait while I took a cell phone picture of his license, and then another close up photo his face, I gave him $20 and a promise (or threat, depending on how you look at it) to find him if anything happened to this girl while he drove her home. I left a note in her purse telling her what happened, and got her phone number from her phone as well.

I gave the girl a call the next day to make sure she was ok, and she was. She was terribly embarrassed and didn't remember a thing, but that was alright with me. Our conversation was over quickly, and I never heard from her again.

I'm glad things turned out alright, but the point is this girl left herself vulnerable to anyone. She's lucky that the perfect stranger that happened to come across her was me. When you're completely helpless and downtown and leave yourself to the mercy of a stranger, anything can happen.

I also wish I didn't have to take the steps I did in order to feel halfway comfortable that the cab driver bringing her home wouldn't pull off in a dark parking lot and have his way with her. Even though I had what I needed to find him if something happened, there was no way for me to know the minute-by-minute happenings in that cab. I could only hope for the best.

Which is why I challenge do something about this obvious problem and to bring some actual solutions to the table instead of half-assed newspaper puff-pieces that get printed up to make everyone think that something is being done, when actual people are being hurt every single day that no legitimate change is made.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Athens Taxi Dilemma

This is bullshit. All of it should have been in place years ago. Of course a fucking convicted felon shouldn't be driving around strangers, much less drunk teenagers and college kids. A "first in first out" policy shouldn't have to be enacted by the government. The cab drivers should be doing that ridiculousness out of policy and good business practices.

It's the typical dog and pony show that Athens-Clarke County engages in when there's a problem and the government wants to look like it's doing something without actually doing anything.

The real problems are numerous. Cab drivers over-charging and taking advantage of their fares is one. The solution? Require every cab to have a dash-mounted fare system that digitally shows its passengers the running tab to bring them from one location to another. It's harder to screw over your passengers when there's an electronically run fare system in place.

Unruly passengers are a common problem. Consider this story. Did they do it? Did they not? A lengthy and very public investigation that tarnished UGA's football program temporarily (although other players, the former Athletic Director, and mediocre coaching has essentially screwed our program as of now) ended up being unfounded, but could have been avoided had taxi companies had cameras installed in their taxis.

And the most public problem? Girls getting picked up downtown, driven out into the middle of nowhere, and raped under the initial assumption that they were getting into what they thought was a cab. The solution? There are several, in my opinion. The first is more markings on the taxi. A simple magnetic sign on the side and a barely-lit "Taxi" slapped on the top are easy enough for your local white-van rapist to get his hands on. We should require more. More permanent markings. More lit signs. Perhaps even a standard multi color-scheme for all cabs that isn't in line with any Joe-Schmo who owns a big white cargo van and a tendancy to pick up drunk college girls downtown and rape them.

Another solution? Fucking taxi stands. Marked taxi stands around downtown. Throw a police officer or two in the mix and not only will your typical, retarded intoxicated college kid know where to go to get a legitimate taxi, but there will be supervision, accountability, and keep those goddamn giant white taxis out of the middle of Clayton street blocking traffic, keep drunk pedestrians from running in front of moving vehicles, & generally make things safer.

Until the government actually suggests and implements actual solutions for the problems that have been plaguing the taxi system for years, then you're going to have the same problems that we've been having for such a long time. Kids will continue to get ripped off from dishonest cab drivers. Bad shit will happen in cabs to passengers and cabbies alike without some in-cab accountability. I've been in a cab alone before, and had the driver show me his pistol. What the fuck? Who does that?

And worst of all, girls will continue to get raped. How long until one is murdered? Mothers and fathers of college kids will have to get the phone call from the police that their daughter has been taken advantage of. Lives will be forever changed.

So Athens-Clarke County...get up off of your ass and fucking do something about it!