City Should Require Measures For Cab Driver Safety [OPINION]
In 2015, when a New Bedford cab driver was shot and murdered in Brooklawn Park, one would have thought the city would take action. Action meaning, in the limited capacity that they can take. Donald DePina, a 66-year-old military veteran, was shot and killed in his cab by two teens. Each was recently convicted and sentenced to prison. There was no protective partition in his cab.
Last week, another cab driver was allegedly accosted by two city men in their early 20s, armed with a knife. In this case, the cab driver exercised his Second Amendment rights and properly defended his life with his lawfully carried firearm, killing one of the assailants. Again, no partition was installed in that cab.
Twenty-four-year-old Christopher Dunton died from his multiple gunshot wounds after police say he and his accomplice, 23-year-old Kyle Dawson, attempted to rob the Yellow Cab driver when they were picked up just after 1 a.m. Thursday. The driver told investigators that he was able to free himself from a choke hold, and then turned the tables on his attackers by firing four shots into the back seat, striking Dunton. Police say Dawson fled the scene.
Having done something like the cab drivers do, I can speak to how dangerous that occupation can be. I actually drove for Uber and Lyft in Boston. Driving for those two companies is far safer, since whoever is getting a ride has a credit card and bank account attached to the ride request and no cash is involved. These clients have proven their identity in order to have an account. This creates a great deterrent to commit any crime on the driver.
Cab drivers have no such peace of mind. They must allow anyone into the cab who calls, at any time and in any neighborhood. Without a clear sign of a threat, they have no choice but to allow strangers into their cab with their backs turned to them as they drive. Having no partition has to be far more stressful once a driver's instincts warn of possible threats.
Most cab experiences I have had have been in the cities of Washington, New York, Miami and Boston. I don't clearly recall ever being in a cab where a plexi-glass partition didn't separate driver from passengers in those cities.
I'm wondering (not criticizing) if there is anything preventing the New Bedford City Council from enacting an ordinance, requiring cab companies doing business in the city, to provide each cab with partitions, or cameras, or both. I found a great article about the pros and cons of the partitions and ideas to improve them here.
New Bedford has more than its fair share of desperate people under economic duress from joblessness, drug addiction, mental health issues and freed felon repeat offenders. Poverty and desperation creates crime, including violent crimes.
Many of the cab drivers are not physically imposing, some are women, and even if they look like they can handle themselves, they are no match for blade or bullet as they drive in a vulnerable scenario, seat belt on and back turned to would-be attackers.
Since the cab companies have taken no initiatives to better protect their drivers, I'd like to see the City take action. How about you?
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.