9:00am Tuesday 1st February 2011
By Emily Allen
THE city’s 600 taxi drivers could be forced to install CCTV in their cars to protect themselves and their passengers.
Many drivers have backed the idea of all cabbies being forced to have the £400 cameras and microphones fitted in their vehicles from as early as next year.
Last night, some drivers said it would make them and their passengers feel safer, although there were concerns it could be an invasion of passengers’ privacy.
Taxi driver Richard Barlow, 53, of Kidlington, said: “I am all for it. It will hopefully encourage more female passengers. We don’t get many females.
“Drivers are sometimes accused of conversations and things that do not take place, so it will protect us.
“It will also reduce the chance of us being attacked. I don’t drive nights but, with CCTV, I would.
“I have been attacked three times. A cord was wrapped around my neck. I have had people threaten me and grab me when they did not want to pay.”
Tony Green, director of 001 Taxis in St Aldates, Oxford, installed software in his cabs three years ago so he knows the exact location of every vehicle, with a panic button for drivers.
He said: “It is a good thing for safety. It is going to make drivers and the passengers safer.”
The City of Oxford Licensed Taxi Cab Association said it received a report of serious assaults on drivers in the city, resulting in hospital treatment, every three to four months.
Secretary Alan Woodward said there were serious arguments between drivers and passengers almost every weekend.
In April last year, a driver was robbed at knifepoint of £80 and his mobile phone in William Kimber Crescent.
But one taxi driver, who asked not to be named, said: “It is wrong, it is disrespectful to our passengers. Some might not get in if they are being recorded.
“It will cost us a lot of money.”
Mr Woodward believed the move would not impact on fares, despite the £400 cost.
Any new vehicles needing a licence from April 2012 must have the cameras fitted, but vehicles already licensed have got until April 2015. The scheme is set to be rubberstamped by the city council next month.
Julian Alison, the council’s licensing team leader, said: “We want to ensure that we promote the safety of the public and any initiatives that can assist in this objective are actively pursued by the Licensing Team and the Trade Associations.
“We want to ensure that any projects do not place a heavy financial burden on the licensed trade.”
There are 112 Hackney Carriages and 528 private hire vehicles currently registered in the city. The council charges £115 for a taxi driving licence for both Hackney carriages and private hire vehicles and £351 for a Hackney carriage vehicle licence.
Police spokesman Chris Kearney said: “The installation of CCTV cameras into the city’s licensed taxis will make a night out in the city centre an even safer proposition and provide valuable evidence for officers investigating allegations.”
It is not yet clear how the system in Oxford would work, but similar schemes are used in Huddersfield, Burnley and Hastings.
Mark Horsfall, who has installed CCTV in one of his cabs at Mount Taxis in Huddersfield, said: “The people who have installed it for a while say it’s definitely worth it. It has helped them in several situations.”
Meanwhile, in Staffordshire, the police and council have used technology so they can download CCTV images from the cabs directly to a police station.
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