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

Homicide prevention in the taxicab industry

Preventing Violence Against Taxi and For-Hire Drivers
April 2010

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a two page factsheet assessing risk factors and preventive measures. From the factsheet: "Taxi drivers are over 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers."

See also the similar May 2000 violence prevention assessment from OSHA.

OSHA Factsheet: Risks and Preventive Strategies

May 2000

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:

The recommended preventive strategies include:

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."

Crime Science
May 9, 2014
Cities with camera-equipped taxicabs experience reduced taxicab driver homicide rates: United States, 1996 - 2010

Cammie K. Chaumont Menéndez, PhD, Harlan E. Amandus, PhD, Parisa Damadi, BS, Nan Wu, MS, Srinivas Konda, MPH, Scott A. Hendricks, MS

(Crime Science 2014, 3:4)

Journal of Transportation Technologies
July 2014
Minimum Requirements for Taxicab Security Cameras

Shengke Zeng, Harlan E. Amandus, Alfred A. Amendola, Bradley H. Newbraugh, Douglas M. Cantis, Darlene Weaver

(Journal of Transportation Technologies, 4, 216-255)

Test photos of a male face at different angles

Researchers from the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health took more than 10,000 photographs of human-face charts in a simulated-taxicab with various photographic resolutions, dynamic ranges, lens-distortions, and motion-blurs in various light and cab-seat conditions. The authors recommend that taxicab security cameras have minimum resolution of XGA-format, highlight-dynamic-range of 1 EV, twilight-dynamic-range of 3.3 EV, lens-distortion of 30%, and shutter-speed of 1/30 second.

Taxi regulator Transport for NSW provides specifications for taxi cameras and security systems which are required in more than 7000 New South Wales taxicabs.

Taxicab Board of Manitoba report Cameras Effective in Reducing Taxicab Crime, presented to the 17th Annual Conference of the International Association of Transportation Regulators by Lou Harries, Chair of the Manitoba Taxicab Board and by Jerry Kozubal, Secretary of the Taxicab Board (55kb Word document). See also Official Notices regarding mandatory installation of both cameras and partitions in all taxicabs on the website of the Manitoba Taxicab Board.

Front and back view of a mounted camera head Front and back views of a Janus digital camera head, one of several models on the market.

The Effectiveness of Taxi Partitions: The Baltimore Case by Dr. John Stone of the Southeastern Transportation Center concluded that "an unshielded Baltimore taxi driver in 1991 was five times more likely to experience assaults." Partitions are also cost effective. From the same report: "A related economic analysis yielded a 17-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio of estimated savings from reduced injuries versus the costs of citywide shield installation."

The Manitoba Taxicab Safety Shields Report of November 1991 offers a comprehensive review of issues involved with partitions, still relevant many years later.

View of a partition

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.

Putting a face on taxi homicide statistics

Photo of Ahmed Hussein Ahmed

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 2000 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 from time to time, 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.

Photo of a murder suspect

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."

How many drivers are killed each year?

Chart showing the number of US cab driver homicides in each year from 1994 to 2013
View a larger version of the chart

This chart shows annual totals for 678 occupational homicides of US taxicab and livery drivers between 1994 and 2013. The average throughout the period was about 34 per year. The data are drawn from the taxicab driver Memoriam List which is maintained on this site. The Memoriam List is based primarily on press reports of cab driver homicides. This chart of the last twenty years does not show the much higher levels that occurred in the early 1990s, e.g. 76 homicides in 1991. Those high numbers were largely due to livery driver homicides in New York City prior to implementation of strong crime prevention measures in 1994.

Training materials and research

Cover shows a colorful cartoon drawing of a taxicab

Chart: seasonal variation by Charles Rathbone

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.

Chart: causal sequence

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

Wanted poster showing two artist sketches of a murder suspect

Police poster issued following the murder
of San Francisco taxicab driver Paul Stine.
The same person is wanted for the murders
of at least five other people.

Pattern in taxi homicides

Chart: three-quarters are head and neck injuries

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.

Case study: New York City

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.

Chart: Homicides by year, NYC

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.

Photo of a NYC taxi with 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.

Photo of a NYC minivan taxi with a partition

A NYC minivan taxi with a partition, January 2008.

NYPD on taxi safety equipment

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."

Illustration of modern-looking redesigned taxi partition

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: Winnipeg

The murder of driver Pritam Deol on July 17, 2001 led to the mandatory installation of taxi security cameras and partitions in 2002. 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.

Picture of a Winnipeg shield
-Photo by Richard Kellie
Winnipeg half-shields attach to the back of the driver seat. They move forward and backward with the seat.
Camera close-up view
-Photo by Richard Kellie
Digital security camera head mounted over the rear-view mirror in a Winnipeg taxicab.

Case study: 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: 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.

London taxi partition

An LTI London cab partition in a left-hand drive version of the vehicle.

Case study: San Francisco

Frequency of homicides, SF 1947-2013

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. The cameras were prone to undetected breakage of internal wire connectors. Spot checks conducted by the Police Department in late 2005 revealed that many cameras had become non-functional.

San Francisco taxis are now equipped with a later generation of advanced high-resolution forward- and rear-facing digital video cameras. The devices are very conspicuous to passengers. Despite a large increase in the size of the taxi fleet, there were no homicides in licensed cabs between 2006 and the time of this writing in Summer 2017. A fatal attack occurred in an unlicensed cab in 2007.

Twenty-seven San Francisco taxicab drivers were slain between 1947 and 2016.

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.

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