FIJI TAXI DRIVERS AN EASY TARGET FOR CRIME

Editorial

Fiji Daily Post

SUVA, Fiji (Sept. 11) - Driving a taxi in Fiji has become one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, especially if you work the night shift.

While the high incidence of taxi robberies is a cause for concern, a more disturbing trend is the increase in fatalities of drivers who fall victims to the deeds of violent robbers.

Taxis are easy targets. For the criminal intent on getting his hands on some fast cash, flagging a taxi is easier, more convenient and less risky than say robbing a bank or the neighborhood shop. And there is the guarantee that a taxi will always carry some amount of cash. Moreover, the robber has the advantage of committing his heinous act in an isolated spot away from any public attention.

Taxi drivers are thus very vulnerable to potential robbers. What is needed is some action and appropriate response not only from law enforcement authorities, but also from the taxi industry.

Perhaps harsher sentencing may serve as a deterrent, after all a taxi robbery includes more than one crime being committed.

Taxi drivers need to improve on security and inculcate a high level of security awareness, especially when on the night shift.

Fiji Taxi Union general secretary Rishi Ram has noted that taxi operators are being forced to work extra hours to meet an increase in costs and decreasing revenue - which he attributes to Land Transport Authority fines, fuel price increases, unlicensed competitors and so forth.

This increase in hours does potentially more harm than good to the cabbies. It further exposes them to an already worsening environment for taxi drivers.

Perhaps Ram and members of the union should seriously consider coming up with measures that they themselves put in place to address the security risks they face.

Some taxi operators who use radiotelephone communications have a lesser security risk than drive-alone operators. Radio communication does serve as a deterrent to passengers intent on becoming robbers, because the constant exchange of information means that the taxi’s whereabouts are monitored and known.

Taxi drivers who do not have radio can use their mobile phones to keep in contact with other drivers should they feel insecure.

Also, protective seat covers around the taxi driver, like those employed overseas is an option worth considering. These covers are made of plastic or fiberglass and protect the driver from passengers, making it very difficult for anyone to get physical access to him.

While these added features may incur some cost, they go a long way in providing better security and can deter violent robberies.

A final note for the cabbies -- having soldiers and checkpoints clogging our streets is really not in their best interest. These actually deter people from moving around freely, thus less business for taxis.

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