Dunn Leads Effort To Ban Sex Offenders From City Taxis
NEW BEDFORD - In the wake of recently reported incidents involving sexual assault by Uber and Lyft drivers, one New Bedford city councilor is fighting to make sure that taxis in the Whaling City are safe for area residents.
Ward Three City Councilor Hugh Dunn spoke with WBSM News on Wednesday to talk about his amendment to the City's “Vehicle for Hire” ordinance, which was unanimously approved by the City Council's Ordinance Committee to be subject of a public hearing with the City's taxi companies.
The amendment calls for a change to the current ordinance, which bans individuals convicted of felonies from becoming eligible for a taxi license in New Bedford for up five years following the date of conviction.
“As written, a registered sex offender is eligible for a taxi license five years after the date of conviction - this is unacceptable,” Councilor Dunn stated in a press release. “No member of our community should be allowed to unknowingly enter a vehicle for hire with a person who is a registered sex offender. It is our job to make sure that there are no loopholes in our ordinances, and that we get it right every time, to keep New Bedford safe.”
The councilor also explained that there was no language excluding sex offenders from being awarded taxi licenses in New Bedford, which he says was confirmed by City Council Attorney David Gerwatowski.
Dunn said that recently reported incidents of sexual assault from Uber and Lyft users were not motivators for action on the matter as they are regulated on the state level. He also said that the state enforces the same regulation on Uber and Lyft that he's proposing for New Bedford.
“Meanwhile, taxi companies are regulated at the local level so it's really up to us to make sure that our regulations prevent this public safety hazard,” said Dunn. “If somebody's on the sex offender registry that means that there is a potential for re-offense. I think as a city we really need to close any loopholes that could let that happen.”
An attorney, Dunn suggested that an amendment should be inserted into the City's ordinance that says, “No public vehicle license shall ever be issued to any person who is required to register as a sex offender in any jurisdiction.”
The Vehicle for Hire Ordinance will be sent to the Mayor's Office for ratification following the public hearing with the City's taxi companies.