American Journal of Preventive Medicine
June 11, 2013
Effectiveness of Taxicab Security Equipment in Reducing Driver Homicide Rates
Cammie K. Chaumont Menéndez, PhD, Harlan E. Amandus, PhD, Parisa Damadi, BS, Nan Wu, MS, Srinivas Konda, MPH, Scott A. Hendricks, MS
(Am J Prev Med 2013;45(1):1-8)
From page 5 of the article:
"These data support the hypothesis that installing cameras in taxicabs results in a reduction in citywide taxicab driver homicide rates post-installation (seven times lower homicide rate) and compared to cities with neither cameras nor partitions (three times lower homicide rate). The data do not support the hypothesis that cities with partitions installed in taxicabs experience lower taxicab driver homicide rates than cities with neither cameras nor partitions. This is the first study to methodically collect data from a nationally representative sample of the largest taxicab cities over a 15-year time span that allows for comparison of rates pre- and post-installation of cameras."
See also a related article by the same authors "Cities with camera-equipped taxicabs experience reduced taxicab driver homicide rates: United States, 1996 - 2010"
How many drivers are killed each year?
This chart summarizes 1126 occupational homicides of US taxicab and livery drivers between 1980 and 2009. The average throughout the period was about 38 per year. The highest numbers were in the 1990s before New York City implemented its crime prevention program for taxis and liveries.
Sources and notes: The 1994-2009 data are drawn from the cab driver Memoriam list which is maintained on this site. The Memoriam list is based primarily on press reports of cab driver homicides. The 1980-1993 data are from the "606 Homicides" report, described below, which is based on both press reports and official tallies of cab driver homicides. The totals for 1994-1996 are probably understated, especially with regard to New York City. Most likely there were a few more deaths in each of those three years than is reflected in these numbers.
Pattern in taxi homicides
The typical fatal scenario is a night time shooting from inside the cab. Most of the deaths are due to head or neck injuries, and most of the assailants are in their teens. The following are the main findings from the report "606 Taxicab Driver Homicides, United States and Canada, 1980-1994" by Charles Rathbone.
- 94% of the attacks occur when the driver is inside the cab.
- 85% of the fatal injuries are gunshot wounds.
- 82% of the assaults occur at night.
- 74% of the deaths are due to head and neck injuries.
- 64% of the deaths are from gunshots to the head.
- 66% of the assailants are under age twenty.
- 47% of the assailants act alone.
- 25% of the assailants are outside the cab.
OSHA Factsheet, May 2000: Risks and Preventive Strategies
Taxicab and livery drivers are 60 times more likely than other workers to be murdered on the job. In May 2000, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration prepared a two-page fact sheet on taxi safety. It is the single most authoritative statement on homicide risks in the taxi business and the recommended preventive strategies.
The homicide risk factors for taxi drivers are:
- working with the public
- working with cash
- working alone
- working at night
- working in high-crime areas
The recommended preventive strategies include:
- automatic vehicle location or global positioning systems (GPS) to locate drivers in distress
- caller ID to help trace location of fares
- first-aid kits for use in emergencies
- in-car surveillance cameras to aid in apprehending perpetrators
- partitions or shields to protect drivers from would-be perpetrators - must be used properly to work effectively
- protocol with policeowners and police need to track high-crime locations and perpetrator profiles
- radios to communicate in case of emergencye.g. open mike switch
- safety training to teach drivers, dispatchers, and company owners protective measures
- silent alarms to alert others in the event of dangere.g., bandit lights
- use of debit/credit cardsi.e., cashless fare systemsto discourage robbers
Putting a face on taxi homicide statistics
Taxicab driver Ahmed Hussein Ahmed, pictured at left, was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota during 2003. View the photo section on the Memoriam page.
The Memoriam List records the names of more than 1000 taxi and livery drivers who were murdered on the job, and provides partial information on the murders of an additional 1000+. The list is updated frequently, and can be sorted by name, date or place. If you have recently lost a loved one, please see the resource sheet for family members.
Why do they kill cab drivers?
This 62 year old man was arrested for the murder of a taxi driver in Portland, Oregon. Read "Why do they kill cab drivers?", an essay with photos on making sense out of "senseless murder."
Nicely illustrated 24-page color printable training brochure Tips for Taxi & Livery Drivers: Dealing with Workplace Violence courtesy of Western Iowa Tech Community College. The brochure was developed by Western Iowa Tech Community College, under a Susan Harwood grant from the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Another well illustrated safety brochure is the 16-page Your guide to a safer workplace - Victorian taxi driver safety produced by the Victorian Taxi Directorate's Department of Infrastructure.
Protect drivers in the most common high-risk scenario, which is an opportunistic attack from behind.
Constructed of bullet-resistant materials that form a barrier between drivers and passengers.
Light-colored vinyl upholstery covers the steel lower half of a partition.
The only proven-effective homicide prevention measure for a taxicab. Read the abstract of "The Effectiveness of Taxi Partitions: The Baltimore Case."
Partitions are also known as shields or screens.
Cheap and low maintenance, partitions are appropriate technology for small operations, which comprise the majority of the taxi industry. They can be installed by a mechanic in 30 minutes.
Partitions are a familiar sight to travelers. They are used in tens of thousands of cabs in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, London, Sydney, Shanghai and many other places.
In order to be effective, any opening or window in the partition must be in the closed position.
This view from the front seat shows a partition's sliding window unlocked and open.
The change tray is visible at the left. A screw-on aluminum clamp attached to the upper
rail limits the distance that the window opens, in this case to about 4 inches.
Driver preferences pro-and-con shields are linked to night shift work, to length of service and to other variables. Two official surveys were conducted in San Francisco. An analysis of the survey results indicates substantial support for partitions, as much as 60% among night drivers, and explores the factors influencing driver acceptance or opposition.
A partition installed in a Dodge Caravan minivan. See additional photos of this vehicle.
The Manitoba Taxicab Safety Shields Report of November 1991 offers a comprehensive review of the issues involved with shields, still very relevant 15 years later.
Do-it-yourselfers installing partitions may want to experiment with an inexpensive intercom to facilitate communication in a partitioned cab.
Cameras act as a deterrent and as an aid in the apprehension of perpetrators.
The devices, usually mounted above the rearview mirror, provide a wide angle view of the interior of the vehicle. Digital images are recorded automatically, for instance every time the meter is turned on or when a door is opened. Infrared sensors allow images to be captured even in a darkened cab at night. Taxi security cameras usually provide "still" images, but at least one model saves video images.
The most convincing official statements on the effectiveness of cameras are from the Manitoba Taxicab Board, which is the regulator for Winnipeg taxicabs. Winnipeg has achieved real success with its taxicab crime reduction program, which requires both cameras and half-shields in all of the cabs. See Cameras Effective in Reducing Taxicab Crime, a report describing the results from Winnipeg. (a 55kb Word document, or view the same report in PDF format)
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
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.
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.
Crime statistics from New South Wales for the years 1997-2000 are sometimes presented (e.g. by camera vendors to the San Francisco Taxi Commission) as evidence for the effectiveness of cameras in taxicabs. The statistics, which indicate a sharp reduction in assaults, are of questionable value because they incorrectly state that there were no taxicab driver homicides in NSW during the period. A search of the web site of the Sydney Morning Herald turned up at least two taxicab driver homicides during the period 1997-2000. The two murders identified are: Kevin Lester on October 16, 1999 in Nowra, NSW; and Satpal Singh Suri on Feb 26, 2000 in Sydney, NSW.
Other reports from Australia, where taxi security cameras are most widely used, are generally anecdotal and do not contain useful statistics. Much of the Australian experience with cameras may not be relevant to the US where gun-related crime against drivers is much more frequent.
Perth (Western Australia) in late-1997 was the first city to adopt cameras. The move to install cameras began after two serious assaults on drivers in 1995, and developed in the atmosphere of distrust toward cab drivers in 1996 and 1997 when the highly publicized "Claremont" serial killings of young women occured, allegedly after the victims hailed cabs. For more on Perth's adoption of cameras, see Cameras in Perth's Taxis, by Dr. Ian Radbone, University of South Australia.
Like partitions, cameras may be controversial. 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.
Portland, Oregon conducted a 2004 review of security cameras with an eye to the City of Portland purchasing cameras for use in taxis. Three documents of note emerged: a May 2004 report on test images; an October 2004 report with an image quality vote summary; and the October 2004 report from the Camera Selection Committee.
Images from taxi security cameras are much-liked by the press, which is fortunate because media publicity about "robbers caught on camera" is one key to camera effectiveness. Such articles have appeared following crimes in: Winnipeg; Toronto; Washington; Perth; Houston; and Holland.
This photo by a taxi security camera records an armed robbery by a rear seat assailant in an unpartitioned cab. It starkly illustrates the grave danger to drivers during holdups. In this case, the driver survived with no physical injury. 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. This young robber, however, either did not see the camera or did not care. The photo, which was published in the Cincinnati Enquirer, also illustrates why drivers may have privacy concerns about the use of camera images.
Case study: Partition-or-Camera in NYC
Good evidence for the effectiveness of a partition-or-camera policy comes from New York City. In the early 1990s there were 40+ drivers killed each year. Now there are almost no murders, thanks in large part to mandated safety equipment in virtually all of the 50,000+ cabs and liveries.
The data sources for this chart are TLC statistics and and press reports.
Partitions were required for all medallion cabs and for some liveries beginning in 1994, and either a partition or camera for almost all of the remaining liveries in 2000. See the March 2000 press release authorizing in-vehicle digital camera as an alternative security device to satisfy the For-Hire Vehicle partition requirement. A September 2000 TLC industry notice gave details about municipal funding of the city's partition-or-camera program. Of the 13,550 requests for reimbursement, 73% were for partitions. Beginning in 2006, hybrid-model medallion cabs, which tend to be smaller vehicles, are allowed to use cameras instead of partitions.
Crash statistics from New York City reveal that passenger injuries went down steadily every year following the introduction of partitions in 1994. Read a synopsis of the results and see the full report by transportation consultant Bruce Schaller.
New York's cab safety policies go well beyond requiring safety equipment, including at one time assigning hundreds of police officers to work full-time on cab safety. NYC medallion cabs are almost all long-wheelbase Crown Victoria Fords, a model that was designed specifically to facilitate the use of a partition.
View of a long-wheelbase NYC medallion cab with a partition installed.
The compelling lesson from New York is that a policy of requiring either a partition or a camera has worked very well, in conjunction with municipal funding for the equipment, and in conjunction with other crime prevention measures. It is a clear formula for success in preventing homicides against taxicab drivers.
New York City, once notorious for taxi driver murders, is now arguably the safest city for cab driving in the US.
A NYC minivan taxi with a partition, January 2008.
Ford Escape hybrid equipped with an L-shaped partition and passenger information monitor, 2008.
From the Taxi and Limousine Commission minutes of February 26, 2004
"Captain Sbano then stated that it was the opinion of the New York City Police Department that partitions were a very sound crime prevention strategy and they would like to see them continued. Commissioner Dean then asked if cameras were better than partitions. Captain Sbano distinguished between preventing crime and using means after a crime has occurred to identify the perpetrator. Captain Sbano stated that it was better to prevent the crime from occurring in the first place."
Proposed redesign of NYC taxicab partition. Image by Antenna Design New York Inc. Courtesy of the Design Trust for Public Space. See also Designing the Taxi for more on the future of the NYC taxicab.
Case study: Partition-and-Camera in Winnipeg
The murder of driver Pritam Deol on July 17, 2001 led to the mandatory installation of taxi security cameras by July 2002 and partitions by January 2003. In addition, about 80% of taxicabs have a global positioning system that can identify a cab's location in the event of an emergency. The partitions used in Winnipeg are half-shields that protect against attacks from behind. They are made of a less rigid material compared to the bullet-resistant partitions used in US cities. All drivers receive mandatory training in use of the cameras.
Winnipeg's determined response to crime led to a 79% reduction in robberies during 2003 compared to 2001. What's more, the arrest rate in robberies and assaults against drivers rose from 35% in 2001 to 50% in 2002 and to 66% in 2003, a result attributed to images of criminals obtained by taxi security cameras. As of July 2006, there have been no further driver homicides since 2001. Arguably Winnipeg taxicabs are the safest in North America.
Case study: Partition-only in Boston, Baltimore and Los Angeles
Boston required partitions decades ago in response to driver homicides. Murders have since become rare, with the most recent being in 1993. Baltimore mandated partitions at the request of industry leaders in 1996, also in response to driver homicides. That city's experience led to the best-documented case study on partitions. See the statistical analysis by Dr. John Stone in his report, "The Effectiveness of Taxi Partitions: The Baltimore Case." Similarly the City of Los Angeles required partitions in all its licensed taxicabs during the 1990s. As in Baltimore, the Los Angeles switch to partitions was initiated by an industry leader. The taxi homicides that occur in Baltimore and Los Angeles are almost invariably among unlicensed or out-of-town cabs.
Case study: Partition-only in London
All London licensed taxicabs (but not minicabs) are equipped with factory-installed partitions. The clear plastic screens are attack-resistant, but not bullet-resistant as in the US. Originally a passenger privacy feature, the partitions provide a significant level of security for drivers as well. Homicides are extremely rare among London's tens of thousands of licensed cabs.
An LTI London cab partition in a left-hand drive version of the vehicle.
Case study: Partitions in China
Little information is available on China's taxi industry, but partitions are widely used throughout the country.
An L-shaped partition in a Shanghai taxi, 2007. Photo courtesy of Jack Barry.
Case study: Camera-or-GPS in Toronto
Toronto taxicabs are required to have either a security camera or a global positioning system linked to a driver-activated panic button. Most cabs have security cameras. While crimes against drivers decreased following the mandate for security devices, there have been setbacks. Morteza Khorassani was murdered in September 2005 and then Mahmood Bhatti was killed in May 2006.
Jonathan Forder, 31, is the prime suspect in the May 2006 murder of a Toronto taxicab driver and an attack on another cab driver the same night. Forder fled Toronto but was captured a few weeks later. The photo was taken with a digital security camera in a Toronto cab.
Case study: Camera-only in San Francisco
San Francisco requires all cabs to be equipped with a digital security camera. Unlike Winnipeg, partitions are not required in addition to the cameras, though a handful of cabs do have partitions installed in addition to the cameras. And unlike Toronto and New York, there is no option allowing alternate equipment to satisfy the safety mandate. Thus San Francisco is the only city in North America to date that is a "pure" test of the effectiveness of cameras.
The two most recent driver homicides were in 1999 and 2002. 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.
Crime-prevention resources and research
Three crime-prevention essays from Kingston (Ontario) drivers Roy Ambury and Allan Kleywegt, June 2009.
The New South Wales (Australia) Ministry of Transport created the Taxi Industry Safety and Security Taskforce which issued its Final Report in December 2007. See also the appended Taxi Driver Security Survey that was conducted as part of the Taskforce's work. An earlier Interim Report was issued in July 2007.
Crime Prevention Recommendations For Cab Company Owners, Drivers and Dispatchers from the St. Petersburg (Florida) Police Department, August 2008. (380kb PDF)
Stop Killing Taxi Drivers is a short video that tells the moving story of African immigrant drivers in Philadelphia and their August 2001 demonstration.
A taxi crime scene investigation
Robbery of Taxi Drivers, March 2005 community policing guide for US police departments from the Department of Justice by Martha J. Smith, associate professor of criminal justice in the School of Community Affairs at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas. (336KB PDF document)
"Streetwise: How taxi drivers establish customers' trustworthiness" is a 2005 book based on the experiences of taxi and livery drivers in Belfast and New York City. It is the result of a study by UK researchers Diego Gambetta and Heather Hamill; see "Signalling and Mimicking Trustworthiness: Taxi Drivers and Their Customers in Dangerous Cities". A synopsis and purchase info on the book is available from the Russell Sage Foundation.
New home page of the International Taxi Driver Safety Council, directed by Jim Szekely
Preventing Homicide in the Workplace, NIOSH alert and request for assistance, May 1995
Violence in the Workplace: Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies NIOSH Current Intelligence Bulletin #57 June 1996
For a chart and discussion of the causal sequence and intervention points in cabdriver assaults, see "Assault and Homicide as an Occupational Hazard for Taxicab Drivers: A Hazard Management Approach" by Julie A. Holston
Speech presented by Barb Kabrick to the 2004 NIOSH Workplace Violence Conference in Baltimore
Proceedings of Conference on Violence as a Workplace Risk, Montreal, Nov 2001
Criminal Intent Workplace Violence by Barbara Kabrick, at the Conference on Violence as a Workplace Risk, November 29/30 2001, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Taxicab Safety Issues, Manitoba Taxicab Board, October 2001
Violent Assaults on Taxi Drivers, by Claire Mayhew, Australian Institute of Criminology, dated November 2000. (PDF)
Preventing Assaults on Taxi Drivers, by Claire Mayhew, Australian Institute of Criminology, dated November 2000. (PDF)
From the Driver's Seat a Safety Report by London, Ontario Taxi Drivers
Taxi Driver: Worst Occupational Hazard in Minneapolis, 2003 paper by Mia Lor
Police poster issued following the murder of San Francisco taxicab driver Paul Stine.
Fare Game, Fare Cop Victimization of, and Policing by, Taxi Drivers in Three Canadian Cities, by Dr. Philip Stenning. The document, 116 pages in Word format (476KB), is also available as a 1 megabyte PDF file. See also a Poster Magazine article from December 1996 discussing the report.
Proceedings of Western Australia Taxi Driver Safety and Summit
Taxi Driver Safety Survey by Victorian Taxi Directorate, Australia
Statistics on crime and related subjects from the U.S. Bureau of Justice
Taxi Driver Security speech presented by Prof. John Stone before the Montreal Urban Community Taxi Bureau, 6 Dec 1996
Taxi Safety Initiatives Study, by Dr. Ian Radbone, University of South Australia, 27 March 1997
Issues and Options Discussion Paper, by Public Transportation Drivers Task Force, Province of British Columbia, Canada, June 1998
Nature of the injury in 151 taxi driver homicides from 606 Taxi Driver Homicides, US and Canada 1980-1994, a report by Charles Rathbone based on news reports
Taxi crime prevention flyer in Word format by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (North Carolina) June 2002
Another point of view: An Acceptable Level of Violence. The authors argue that South Africa's taxi drivers are part of that country's system of "retributive informal justice."
Winnipeg taxi drivers demand safety shields
Life stinks for Spokane cabbies, The Local Planet Newsweekly, Spokane, WA, USA, 14 June 2001
How safe is taxi driving for women?, by Barb Kabrick, Spokane, WA, USA, as published in Call Sign, London, UK
An exploration of seasonal variation in taxicab homicides. Based on six years worth of data, the incidence of homicide appears to be greater at some times of the year and lower at other times.
How To Make The Job Safer for Cabbies, as published in Canada's national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, following the murder of 2 taxi drivers in Toronto over 3 days 30 Dec 1999 and 1 Jan 2000.
Defensive Driving, Being a cabbie is one of the most dangerous jobs in America, by Rose Farley, Dallas Observer, 9 December 1999
German summary analysis of taxi driver safety measures, in the German language, plus paraphrased transalation into English alongside.
Taxi driver mind set for safety by Gord Barton
28 Tips for Taxi Driver Safety by Gord Barton
Dressing for Effectives and Personal Safety by Gord Barton
Violence in the Workplace by Guardian Security Services, Inc., 13 Dec 96
Most Dangerous Jobs in New York: Gypsy Cab Driver by Richard Marosi, from Columbia University News Service
GPS & A Taxi Driver in Peril, or Where in the World Are You?
The map shows approximate locations of San Francisco taxicab driver homicides. Twenty five drivers were slain between 1947 and 2005. See the Taxicabs San Francisco web site for more safety-related information on that city.
Additional Taxi Safety Resources and Research
This fatal taxi wreck claimed six lives in Southern California. It was caused by an unlicensed cab driver who tried to beat a train to a crossing.
Taxi Drivers and Road Safety, a 1997 study from the Australian Federal Office of Road Safety. From the Executive Summary: "The major findings indicate that anger and risk-taking are important predictors of taxi driver accidents, with increased anger expression and increased risk-taking being related to a greater likelihood of involvement in accidents. Average length of shifts and vehicle type were also significant predictors of accident involvement." (674KB pdf)
Applied Cognition Laboratory at the University of Utah researches the impact of using advanced in-car technologies on driving performance and traffic safety.
National Safety Council, a membership organization dedicated to protecting life and promoting health.
State-by-state information on Diabetes and your driver's license, a 2005 project of the American Diabetes Association reviewing rules and policies in all 50 states. The focus is on non-commercial licenses, which is the kind required for taxicab drivers in many states.
Drive and Stay Alive, highway safety research papers and related publications from around the world.
"Occupational and personal factors associated with acquired lumbar spondylolisthesis of urban taxi drivers" by J-C Chen1, W P Chan, J N Katz, W P Chang and D C Christiani. Article in Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2004;61:992-998. Read online or download as a 120kb PDF from OEM Online.
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