The issue of people not paying for cab rides was thrust into the spotlight this week when a Vernon driver was allegedly threatened by a non-paying customer.
Taxi riders getting in a cab with no intention of paying is a problem that is becoming more common in the Vernon area according to Vernon Taxi, whose driver was threatened over the weekend.
“It is becoming more and more prevalent, they are becoming bolder. People feel that they can just do it and there is no recourse,” Vernon Taxi manager Dave Kassam said.
“Everything is commission based. You are stealing not just from the company, you are stealing from that driver who is out there doing a public service trying to earn a living.”
Kassam said this weekend’s incident happened early Saturday morning when a driver picked up a woman in Vernon at around 2:30 a.m. The woman wanted to go to Enderby, roughly 35 kilometers away.
“They got there. She refused to pay. I don’t think she had any intention of paying and the driver said ‘I’m going to call the cops,’” Kassam said.
“She got irate and started kicking and throwing things and he pulled over and she said, ‘You are lucky, you were about to get stabbed,’ and got out of the car.”
Kassam said the driver was under the impression the woman had a knife.
While Kassam is well aware of the problem of people shirking fares, he sees it as an unfortunate cost of doing business and is quick to put this weekend’s incident in context.
“This is just something that happens. The driver was fine. He didn’t feel overly threatened. He was pretty calm about everything and came to work the next day,” Kassam said.
In general, the taxi company manager believes fare shirking is connected to drug use in the community.
“The majority of people that end up not paying are generally high. They are not the people we pick up from the bars. They are not the people we pick up from low-income places or the Salvation Army or anything like that. They all pay,” Kassam said.
“I’ve been here all my life and watching it get worse and worse. It is sad. But there is not an easy solution.”
Police said the officer that responded to Saturday’s incident had no direct contact with the woman accused of threatening the driver, so police couldn’t determine whether she was impaired.
RCMP said they had identified a possible suspect in Saturday’s case but, so far, no one has been arrested.
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