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Perspex glass and a dedicated garda team: What taxi drivers want after robberies by west Dublin gang

A number of taxi drivers have been recently targeted.
Jan 16th 2019, 6:16 AM 23,982 35

TAXI DRIVERS ACROSS Dublin want stricter punishments for those who violently assault and rob drivers as well as a dedicated garda liaison officer to deal with crime against them. 

Gardai in west Dublin are urging drivers to report suspicious activity following a number of robberies from taxi drivers and delivery drivers over the Christmas period. 

TheJournal.ie understands that there have been a handful of such incidents since Christmas in the Tyrellstown, Clonee and Blanchardstown areas of west Dublin – however just two have been reported to gardaí. 

Most of these incidents have occurred when the taxi has been hailed using a phone app. Gardaí believe that the gang picks its target by constantly hailing cab, thereby allowing them to get an older driver. 

A driver’s photograph is typically displayed on the phone app when they are en route to pick up the fare.

While taxi drivers TheJournal.ie spoke to wanted to emphasise that these attacks are not a daily occurrence, they say they are still happening too often and not enough is being done to deter thieves from targeting them. 

A spokesman for the National Irish Taxi Association (NITA) said that he feels that drivers should be treated like any other public servant on the front line. 

He said: “These crimes are going unnoticed and unreported. But I really think we should be treated the same way as any other public servant. I think people get off lighter because they attack a taxi driver. We need to be given more protection. 

One of the things that we want is a garda liaison officer who would deal solely with taxi drivers. That garda would let drivers know the status of investigations into those who attacked them so we know that something is being done about it. A lot of the time when lads report what happened, they don’t hear what goes on in the end and it’s like nothing has happened. I think if we knew someone got convicted, it’d make drivers more likely to report the crimes in the first place. 

Drivers, in the past, have been using WhatsApp groups to communicate with other drivers and gardaí when they have picked up a suspicious fare. 

WhatsApp

When drivers feel unsafe, they are able to send their location to a messaging group. Gardaí are then alerted, as well as taxi drivers in the area, who search for the roof sign number of the driver in trouble.

On many occasions, drivers have received an escort from gardaí – especially if the drivers are entering a housing estate which is considered a hotspot for anti-social behaviour.

However, this is not the norm, according to the NITA. What is becoming more prevalent, according to the organisation, is the number of drivers who are taking added precautions. Many have CCTV systems installed in their vehicles. Some drivers have even installed perspex glass as a way of protecting themselves. 

90179574_90179574 Taxi drivers want a dedicated garda team to deal with violence towards drivers. Source: Photocall Ireland

This time last year, TheJournal.ie reported that a group of young men were carrying out similar crimes. 

On New Year’s Eve 2017, a driver was threatened with an imitation firearm and robbed in the Hazelbury Park area of Clonee, west Dublin. The driver, although shaken, got to Blanchardstown Garda station where he gave gardaí a statement.

Many drivers are now avoiding picking up and dropping off in certain parts of Ongar, Clonee and Tyrellstown areas for fear they will be targeted.

The increase in the number of taxi driver being attacked has also gained the attention of politicians. Fine Gael TD Noel Rock has written to the National Transport Authority to urge them to act to safeguard drivers. 

Rock has also suggested that a small grant be offered to drivers to incentivise them the purchasing of dashcams and CCTV systems. 

Speaking about the spike in attacks and the use of hailing apps to target older drivers, Rock said: “There is no question that more taxi drivers are being attacked than ever before, which is alarming. It’s a difficult job and it can also be a dangerous job.  It’s my belief that we should be working to ensure the safety of drivers as well as passengers.

“Accordingly, I have written to both the NTA and to the Minister to urge them to consider some measures to assist with the installation of these useful safety devices in their cars. A small grant would go a long way to assist taxi drivers in installing these safety devices.”

Rock said that he has also sought a meeting with the management of the largest taxi app in the market, to see what safety measures they intend to implement themselves following reports that gangs were targeting older and more vulnerable taxi drivers based on the information which is presented within an app when a taxi is booked.

“Again, for the sake of the safety of both passengers and drivers, this needs to be looked at. Ultimately, I see this as an investment in the safety of our taxi drivers, our passengers and indeed something which will hopefully reduce insurance premiums by increasing safety for all.”

TheJournal.ie contacted MyTaxi for comment but did not receive a reply by time of publication.

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Garreth MacNamee

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