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Keeping Watch For Fares And Crimes

New program calls on taxi drivers to report suspicious activity to police

In addition to transporting people around, taxi cab drivers will also be helping the Nassau County Police Department reduce crime within the county, announced Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano at a press conference on Sept. 6. Mangano along with Police Commissioner Thomas Dale, representatives from local taxi companies and other official announced the implementation of a new program called, “Taxis on Patrol,” a voluntary program in which taxi drivers will help participate in a variation of a neighborhood watch program.

“This is a program that will help educate taxi drivers to report suspicious and unusual events directly to our police department,” said Mangano. “It will certainly help bring suspicious behavior to the attention of the police rapidly.”

The program has three components. The first one is the taxi driver training program which will educate drivers on detecting suspicious behavior which they should alert police about. The second part is adding taxi companies to the Policy Security Information Network, also known as SPIN, so that companies can alert their drivers about public safety information with the goal of reducing crime against tax drivers. As an example, if a crime is committed in a community, taxi companies will be alerted in real time by the police, so that the drivers can be notified and use caution when picking up passengers in that area.

“We know from studying robbery cases and burglary cases that, frequently, cab companies are used to transport the defendant from a scene,” said Steven Skrynecki, chief of department for the Nassau County Police.

The third component of the program being implemented is called the Taxi/Livery Robbery Inspection Program, known as TRIP. Taxi drivers who participate in this program will adhere a sticker to the back of their vehicles, which grants police permission to randomly check that taxi to ensure that both the driver and the passenger(s) are safe.

Mangano stressed that this program will be of no cost to the taxpayers. When asked, he commented that the same number of officers are patrolling the streets of the county and this program is only an enhancement of the county’s neighborhood watch program.

“We live in an age when ‘See something, say something,’” is a part of our daily lives,” Mangano said.

According to Michael Moses of eCubed, the company that will be providing the online training, taxi drivers will be taught what activities they should deem suspicious and how they should respond so that both the driver and the passengers are kept safe. Skrynecki was emphatic that taxi drivers are not to intervene if they witness suspicious behavior, and instead notify the police so that law enforcement can take action.

Participation in this program is voluntary and taxi companies will be responsible for the cost of training drivers. Representatives from taxi companies appearing at the press conference expressed enthusiasm for the new program.

“I believe this is a great partnership between government and private sector business,” said Larry Blessinger, vice president of All Island Transportation. “I think this will be great for the community.”

Phil Fortuna, president of Long Island Checker Cab and the Long Island Taxi Owner’s Association commented, “This is a win-win situation for the taxi companies and the residents of Nassau County. I think that after a few months…we’ll see a big decrease in crime.”