Police officers in Ayrshire are cracking down on taxi robberies in the run up to the busiest weekend of the year.
Following two incidents in the past week when drivers were robbed of their takings, police officers have been visiting around 200 taxi drivers across Ayrshire with crime prevention advice in a bid to keep them safe and secure over the pre-Christmas weekend.
Both drivers in the recent robberies saw three-figure sums of money stolen from them but also felt badly shaken by their ordeals, particularly as one was threatened by knifepoint.
All this week, officers have been carrying out their Festive Taxi Safety and Prevention Initiative by talking to taxi companies, advising taxi marshals, engaging with cab drivers and bus companies on important crime prevention advice. In addition, divisional road policing units will be stopping taxi drivers and providing them with security advice whilst working.
With more people going out to enjoy the festivities, the number of taxi journeys increase, resulting in greater amounts of cash being handled by taxi firms. This can leave cab drivers more vulnerable to robberies if they keep large sums of cash in their vehicle.
Drivers have been urged to radio in to their base if they feel at risk of robbery or assault, which will be relayed to the police immediately. There will also be a heavier police presence at taxi stances in the key towns of Kilmarnock, Ayr and Irvine.
Chief Superintendent Gillian MacDonald, Divisional Commander at ‘U’ Division, said,
“This is a particularly busy time of year for taxi drivers, who will experience an increase in the number of journeys they make and hence the amount of cash they handle in any one night. The last weekend before Christmas is always a busy time for taxi firms but my officers have been engaging with taxi companies, marshals and drivers to provide guidance and advice in relation to keeping themselves and their cash safe.
“I would urge drivers to be vigilant and to avoid any passengers who may be acting suspiciously and call the police immediately if you feel you are at all at risk.”
Due to being a cash handling businesses, police are urging taxi drivers to take some sensible precautions when handling money:
• Don’t keep large amounts of money in your vehicle and bank regularly
• If banking is not possible make arrangements to store money securely on you or in a secure part of your vehicle
• Keep valuables out of site and don’t leave them in full view when vehicle is unattended
• Make sure colleagues are aware of your position
• If you have any suspicions don’t pick up the customer and contact police on 101 or 999 in an emergency
• Keep a mobile phone on you and ensure that it is charged
• Park in a well-lit and busy area between pick-ups
• If you are victim of a theft, robbery or other crime, do not further endanger your wellbeing, for example, in an attempt to retain your money
• Use the car horn to attract attention, if safe to do so
• Try and preserve items that may have been touched by those responsible, such as paper
• Ensure that police are contacted without delay
• If possible inform your colleagues via your taxi radio, providing descriptions of those involved
• If you see anyone that have been responsible for robbing a colleague do not challenge them. Inform police and monitor where they go, if safe to do so
Bill McIntosh, the General Secretary of the Scottish Taxi Federation, said:
“To rob taxi drivers at this time of year, particularly when their earnings are being relied upon to provide gifts for their own children and families, is reprehensible. It is only the lowest of the low who would prey on anyone like this, let alone taxi drivers, who are only trying to provide a much-needed service to their local communities.
“I would urge all taxi drivers to take advice from the police, keep alert at all times and keep cash and change out of sight. It would be good advice to drop off your takings at regular intervals so that you don’t carry large amounts of cash at any one time. If any of your passengers are acting suspiciously, use your radio to call for assistance and get your radio base to contact police. If you are concerned with behaviour of any intended passengers, don’t take them in the taxi and contact the police straight away. Do not put your own safety at risk under any circumstances.”
• Around 1840 hours on Wednesday 10 December, a 51 year-old taxi driver was dropping off a passenger on Warrix Avenue in Irvine when the same passenger then presented a knife and demanded the driver’s money. The lone suspect is described as a white man with a local accent aged in his late teens. He is described as being slim built and was wearing a light-coloured hooded top.
• At 0110 hours on Thursday 11 December, a 55 year old taxi driver was dropping off a fare in North Hamilton Street, Kilmarnock when the male attempted to defraud him. The taxi driver challenged him regarding this and the male produced what appeared to be a weapon. A 25 year old male has since been arrested in relation to this.