Photo: The annual Blessing of the Taxi Fleet at St. Boniface Church is a reminder of the risks faced by taxi drivers.

Driver Safety Fact Sheet

The complete Homicide Prevention Factsheet resides on Taxi-L, the sister web site to Taxicabs San Francisco. The very brief discussion here relates solely to San Francisco. Please visit the Taxi-Library page for:

The remainder of this page relates just to San Francisco.

Approximate locations of taxicab driver homicides

SF map of taxi drier homicides

June 2013 update - see a better map made with Google Maps

Twenty-seven taxicab drivers were slain between 1947 and 2012.

A search of SF newspaper records going back to 1921 turned up no reports of taxi driver homicides prior to 1947. This list includes one driver who died four years after his injuries and two slain outside the city limits. Not included are two deaths in the 1970s identified as possible cabdriver homicides by the SF Medical Examiner's Office.

Frequency of SF taxi homicides by year

Frequency of homicides, SF 1947-2007

Cameras in San Francisco

San Francisco requires all cabs to be equipped with a digital security camera. Unlike other cities that use cameras, San Francisco does not allow alternate equipment to satisfy the requirement for crime prevention equipment. Thus San Francisco is the only city in the world to date that is a "pure" test of the effectiveness of cameras.

These are the numbers of reported taxi robberies and carjackings from the San Francisco Police Department's annual reports to the Taxi Commission. The cameras were installed in April 2003.

Chart: SF crimes 1999 to 2005

Cameras were installed during April of 2003 following a highly publicized series of robberies. The reported number of robberies and carjackings declined in 2004 but went back up to prior levels in 2005. Police investigations were hampered in 2005 due to technical issues with the cameras that resulted in a high percentage of cases (more than 50%) in which no image could be recovered from the camera following an attack. Spot checks conducted by the Police Department in late 2005 revealed that many cameras had become non-functional.

See the broader discussion of cameras and read about the experience of other cities on the Taxi-L Homicide Prevention Factsheet.

While cameras are arguably effective at deterring robberies and non-fatal assaults, it is not clear that they reduce the incidence of homicide. A statistical analysis of workplace homicide data published February 27, 2002 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that security cameras are among the least effective homicide prevention measures. The study suggests that the best approach is to adopt five or more crime prevention measures simultaneously. The same study assigned a high preventive value to barriers between workers and the public.

Journal of the American Medical Association
February 27, 2002
Effectiveness of Safety Measures Recommended for Prevention of Workplace Homicide

Dana Loomis, PhD; Stephen W. Marshall, PhD; Susanne H. Wolf, RN,MPH; Carol W. Runyan, PhD; John D. Butts, MD

JAMA. 2002;287:1011-1017.

An abstract of the article is available on the JAMA website. Register as a guest on the JAMA site for free access to the full text. See also a February 2002 article published in HealthScout quoting the lead author of the JAMA report and describing the main findings of the study. The study considered homicides in a broad range of businesses, including the taxicab industry. The lead author confirmed in an email exchange that of the 105 occupational fatalities reviewed in the study, nine were taxicab driver homicides.

The images produced by taxi security cameras starkly illustrate the grave risk that drivers face and underscore the precise nature of that risk.

The photo above, from Cincinnati, records an armed robbery by a rear seat assailant in an unpartitioned cab. The scenario is very typical of the crimes that result in driver homicides, though in this case the driver was not physically injured. Taxi security cameras usually have blinking lights and are announced by signs both inside and outside the cab in order to enhance the camera's deterrent value. Clearly this robber either did not see the camera or did not care.

The photo, published in the Cincinnati Enquirer, also illustrates the privacy concerns that a driver may have regarding the use of his or her own image.

Cameras are not without controversy. The Surveillance Camera Players, a street theater group, performs the skit "It's OK Officer" before cameras monitoring public places to protest widespread surveillance of the public.

graphic: you are being watched

This eye-catching graphic, a satirical protest, is courtesy of the Surveillance Camera Players. It uses a blunt message and a bold arrow to draw attention to a security camera.

side view of a security camera

This is a side view of a digital camera head.

camera data port and panic button

The camera's panic-button, status indicator light and data port.

See the Homicide Prevention Factsheet on Taxi-Library for a more thorough discussion of driver safety.

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