Taxi issues at top of police agenda as assaults on drivers revealed

Stevenage Chief Inspector Richard Harbon

Stevenage Chief Inspector Richard Harbon - Credit: Archant

The top policeman in Stevenage says the force has been addressing a ‘number of issues’ relating to taxis after the Comet revealed the scale of assaults against cab drivers.

There have been a total of 61 cases of assault against taxi drivers in North Herts and Stevenage in the last five years.

In Stevenage alone, there were 44 recorded incidents.

Of these, 22 were common assault without injury, 15 were assault which caused actual bodily harm, and seven were cases of religious or racially aggravated assault.

The Comet obtained the information through a freedom of information request.

The second highest figures recorded were in Hitchin, with nine assaults recorded over the last five years.

In Letchworth there have been five cases of assault against taxi drivers in the same period, in which one was a religious or racially aggravated assault.

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There has been only one recorded case in Baldock.

Stevenage Chief Insp Richard Harbon said: “In Stevenage we have been doing a lot of work focussing on the night time economy, including increasing our patrols and employing a range of tactics to help keep alcohol related anti-social behaviour and violence low in our town centre.

“Working with the other agencies in the Community Safety Partnership, we have been addressing a number of issues relating to taxis, from unlicensed cabs and marshalling of queues at ranks.

“As many of these issues are linked to the night-time economy, our increased presence during the evenings will mean that officers are on hand should any taxis drivers need assistance.”

Roger Lafferty, owner of Hitchin taxi firm Castle Taxis said: “I don’t have this problem with my drivers. I think it’s mostly owner drivers that have their own cars who experience problems.

“Many overcharge, which means that people on a night out get angry and then lash out.”

One former private hire driver, who did not want to be named, said: “I can see why people would feel threatened. As a private hire driver, I never knew who I was going to pick up, only their name and where to pick them up from.

“I always got passengers to sit in the passenger side at the back so they couldn’t throttle me or put a knife in my back.

“I never had this, but a few of my former colleagues picked people up who did a runner without paying.”

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