Local cabs to be equipped with cameras
Following a series of sexual assault charges involving cab drivers, taxicab companies in Waterloo are making the effort to install surveillance cameras within their vehicles.
According to Peter Neufeld, president of Waterloo Region Taxi and the Waterloo Region Taxi Association, there have been six sexual assault cases in the last 20 months.
Only one case took place with Waterloo Taxi and the offender was charged a fine for sexual assault.
“Cameras have always been in place in some of these taxis prior to all of the reports of sexual assaults that have taken place,” said Angelo Apfelbaum, the manager of licensing and enforcement at the Region of Waterloo.
Apfelbaum explained that through the taxi association, there has been a decision to implement cameras in all of the taxicabs voluntarily, rather than just in a select few.
“I have spoken to Waterloo Regional Police [Service] and they recommend that it is best that it is proprietary, owned by Waterloo Taxi just to expedite the process of taking footage,” explained Neufeld.
Sometimes there are problems gaining access to privately owned cameras, as a warrant is typically required to view the footage. Furthermore, it also allows the taxi operator the ability to erase the footage or to recycle the recorded tape.
“It really is a safety issue now,” said Neufeld. “It has come to the forefront, and it is time.”
In order to notify prospective passengers that they will be filmed while in the vehicle, a sticker is required to be placed on the taxi.
The sticker will indicate that that particular taxicab is equipped with a camera.
According to Apfelbaum, there are over 360 cabs in the region, and many of them are still not equipped with a closed-circuit television.
Neufeld said there are still 91 vehicles to equip, and these cabs should all implement surveillance cameras by late December.
In addition to helping eliminate sexual assault in taxicabs, the implementation of surveillance cameras is also predicted to prevent robbery of taxicab operators, mitigate other criminal offenses, act as a deterrent to an illegal act that could take place and provide evidence for car accidents.
“It is going to eliminate any of the issues we have been running into the last while,” explained Neufeld.
By having consistent footage of cab rides, Neufeld will be able to monitor the behaviour that takes place in all taxis.
He will therefore be able to prevent any form of unjust behaviour from occurring.
Neufeld also said that a meeting will be taking place on Sept. 25 with a representative from WRPS in order to educate taxi operators on acceptable interactions with passengers, as well as what constitutes sexual harassment.
Neufeld assured passengers that Waterloo Taxi and the taxi association are doing everything they can in order to reassure the public that they are safe getting into one of their taxis.
According to Apfelbaum however, the municipality still has a long way to go in officially labeling the idea a by-law.
“We have to research municipality requirements and how it has worked for everyone else,” he explained.
Apfelbaum continued to reassure customers that the taxi industry in the region is safe. He encouraged anybody who has a problem involving crime to speak to WRPS.