Known as London’s curry capital, Brick Lane boasts over 50 Indian restaurants, some of which have won plaudits for the quality of their food.
According to some restaurateurs their neighbours began touting for customers in a bid to lure passing punters into their premises, but after a decade of gentle influence the council has received complaints that touts were harassing and intimidating people possibly discouraging them from ever returning to the area.
Tower Hamlets councillor Abdal Ullah commentating on the proliferation of touting has said “It began with just one or two touting for business but this started to affect some other restaurants so badly that they had to start doing the same and before long the situation spiralled”.
[A]fter a voluntary initiative by restaurants to stop touting Tower Hamlets have brought in a bye-law which enables the council to impose a £20,000 fine or 6-month imprisonment if a restaurant employs touts and fining individuals up to £500 if found guilty of the offence.
Annoying touting may be, but I’d be surprised if a woman has ever been raped whilst eating in an Indian restaurant. Unlike London’s Public Hire Vehicles which last year saw reported sexual assaults rising by 54 per cent with 143 sexual attacks including 29 rapes – and what are the authorities doing? Zero.
In October 2002 the Safer Travel at Night ( STaN ) initiative was set up to reduce the rise in sexual assaults, which had reached epidemic proportions with 212 recorded assaults in illegal minicabs in one year alone. Initially thoroughly vetted cab offices were set up, the owners having to keep detailed records for every driver operating out of their premises including ensuring that an Enhanced Criminal Record Check (“CRB”) being made on every driver.
Transport for London in 2006 accelerated their agenda, in proposals recently discovered TfL plans to identify clubs, bars and other venues where satellite cab offices could be set up. We now have a situation where every club, bar or hotel can become a satellite cab office and employ a tout with a clipboard to inveigle young women into the cars illegally parked outside these venues. At the same time CRB checks on foreign nationals coming to work in London have sometimes proved to be ineffectual as their country of origin do not have or will not supply the relevant information on an individual’s criminal record.
There are only 56 PCO enforcement officers to control nearly 10,000 Private Hire and Taxis. Taking into account shift patterns, holiday and sick leave, we are lucky if there are even five officers out that at any one time, and astonishingly there are currently only four, that work at night when they are most needed. This gives you some idea why it really is a sexual predator’s paradise out there. New York, a city of similar size, with a similar number of vehicles has 413 officers.
Should you wish to study the proposals by Steve Burton, Deputy Director of Transport Policing and Enforcement, Transport for London the 95 page document may be accessed at:
This year has shown a marked improvement in the number of cab-related sexual offences at 111, compared to the previous year, where there were 140 offences, there was a decrease of 20.7% and since 2003 the Cab Enforcement Unit has made more than 7,000 arrests for touting and cab-related offences but as anyone knows who visits London at night the results still falls way short of removing these preditators.
Recently the Evening Standard’s Rob Parsons accompanied officers on an undercover operation to tackle touting in the West End; his article was published on the 23 May.
Denise Gabbard has contributed to CabbieBlog with the problems that American cabbies face every working day and how their problems can be ameliorated:
Driving a taxicab is much different from what most people do for a living. Some reports place taxi drivers at the top of the list of most dangerous occupations, above even police officers and firemen. In fact, since 1990, more than 180 taxi drivers have been killed just in New York City.
Obviously, safety should be the top priority of everyone who earns their pay by driving a cab.
What makes it so dangerous?
There are a number of reasons why driving a taxicab is such a dangerous occupation, and drivers should always be alert to those reasons and be on guard against violence:
Drivers work completely alone
Drivers have cash readily available on board
Drivers can work in isolated or seedy areas
Drivers frequently work long and tiring shifts
Drivers deal with strangers, and visitors, constantly
Drivers are often immigrants, and language barriers and racism play a factor
Drivers overall have a poor reputation with the public
Drivers sometimes are treated less human because of negative perceptions
Reading your customers
It’s important to understand the complexity and nature of people when driving a taxicab, in order to keep yourself safe. Realize that every person is different, but that the vast majority of people are good, though sometimes there are bad days even for the nicest folks. Also know that there are people who are simply psychopaths, and these people have no empathy or feelings for others.
If your passenger looks angry or hostile, stares angrily, tenses his body or makes sudden jerky movements, those things should send up a red flag to you. Likewise, if they avoid eye contact all together, you should be on high alert. Body language says as much as the words coming from your customer’s mouth. You must never underestimate a customer, regardless of how they look, because you never know what they are capable of doing.
Playing it safe
Remember that your radio is your lifeline, and your dispatcher can help you if you get in trouble. Be sure that you have a good working relationship with all dispatchers because you need them to always have your back. They can sometimes sense when there is trouble and send help, give you needed information to keep you safe, and keep you up to date on happenings that might affect you.
Always stay alert, keep an eye on what’s going on around you whether driving or waiting for a fare. Eat right, get enough sleep, and plenty of exercise which will keep your energy level high.
Humanize yourself to your fares by offering them a friendly and polite greeting, smile, and most of all, make eye contact. Eye contact is critical, because you are telling them that you care about them and yourself, and also that you know what they look like and can identify them if needed.
Always have adequate taxi insurance to cover any thefts or damage, so you will not be tempted to fight someone who tries to rob you. Your safety is more important than money!
One thought on “STaN’s not The Man”
You raise a number of issues here. We went to Brick Lane a while ago and were harried by restaurant touts to a degree that makes us reluctant to return. Maybe we should try just to see whether the threat of fines has made any difference. Restaurants should realize that such behaviour is bad for trade in general as it deters potential customers from coming into the area.
The issue of illegal cabs is a pressing one. Once, when queueing late at night for a cab, I unwisely accepted an offer from an “unofficial”. The car sounded and behaved oddly and I was glad to get out at the earliest opportunity, though I was charged a reasonable fare and not threatened in any way. Lesson learned, however.
In a city like London, there will always be those who try one way or another to profit illegally by counterfeiting legal activities. If we become paranoid, we will never go out; if we become blasé, we will put ourselves in harm’s way. We need to find a middle course, knowing that this still involves an element of risk. Do SCOs pose a grave risk to the public or will they be monitored to ensure safety and actually prove to be a boon? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out the hard way.
I do not wish harm on any cabbie and am appalled by any reports of theft or assault, let alone murder. I don’t know what the answer might be and suspect that there isn’t one, short of encapsulating the cabbie in an bullet-proof box with a small chute for the money to pass through.
Once when I returned home late at night to an apparently quiet village in Gloucestershire where I was living then, on giving the address to the cab driver I remembered that a cabbie had been murdered a few weeks before on the identical route. Neither of us mentioned the case and the driver did not show any reluctance to convey me to my destination. The incident must have been in both our minds, however.