Since mid-October, 11 cabdrivers in the District have been the target of robberies or car jackings, however, cabbies say many more go unreported.
On Nov. 26, an adult identified as 25-year-old Henry Delonta Williams of Southeast, D.C., and a juvenile were arrested and charged with three of the cab robberies.
Detectives are continuing to investigate the remaining open cases.
Astonished by the news, Councilman Phil Mendelson, (D-At Large) said juvenile involvement in the robberies is evidence of other problems. “The government must come to grips with the problems behind juvenile crime such as truancy, illiteracy, serious family dysfunction and abuse.”
One driver for Falton Taxi Cab Co. located at 2626 Georgia Ave., NW recounted how he was robbed in Chinatown. The driver, who refused to give his name, said two young Black men stuck a shotgun under his chin during the robbery, and later, “one of them called his girlfriend ten times on my cell phone.”
Disgusted. “The city should have more police down there. But if something happens, usually they'll just shut the case after a while if they don't have good information. In my case, after showing me a couple of pictures, the police never called me again. That was six months ago,” he remarked.
The Metropolitan Police Department report in this latest rash of robberies, the suspects have been known to hail cabs in the area of Metro stations. The incidents occurred at various times and different days.
“We hear stories all the time from fellow cabdrivers about robberies like this at Judiciary Square, Metro Center, Gallery Place, and 14th and U Streets Metro Stations,” said Yellow Cab owner, John Porterfield, “We feel the robbers pick places where police will enforce rider pickup leaving us prey to crime.”
Cabbies also report there are more riders that run off rather than pay the fare with leaving drivers without the possibility of collecting the fare.
Nathan Price, president of the DC Professional Taxicab Drivers Association, has been a victim of this type of theft on more than one occasion. Six months ago, around 2 a.m., he picked up a couple at the Friendship Heights Station who seemed harmless. Price dropped the young lady home first at Good Hope Road and Alabama Avenue SE. and proceeded to take the young man to his place at 51st and East Capitol. The fare was about $30.
“When we arrived, the guy said wait here while he urinated. I told him I wanted my fare first. That’s when the guy told me he was going to get a gun. Then I pulled off,” said Price. “This happens more times than we want to admit.”
But more alarming is the fact that cabdrivers don’t report most robberies, even those at gunpoint because of police harassment.
Porterfield and Price explain.”When a cabdriver reports the robbery, the first thing police do is check for violations of any kind. We’ve had cabdrivers who were robbed receive tickets for not having enough air in the tire, manifest problems and things like that. The victim becomes the target of violations and lawbreaking while the robber gets away,” said Porterfield.
Oscar Chaudrey, a cabdriver for Independence, was robbed at gunpoint after he picked up a passenger at the Hilton Hotel downtown. The police impounded his vehicle for more than a week dusting for fingerprints.
“He was forced to rent another cab for $300. The robber stole $50. To him and many others, taking the means to make money from the cabdriver is punishing the victim,” said Price.
There are three devices used to make cabdrivers feel safe. The Yellow Cab Company installed a GPS emergency beacon system that will alert police. Some drivers have thick police barricade shields inside the vehicle and a few have security cameras.
“If there are violations involving taxi cabs, MPD will respond accordingly. The fact that we have made arrests in the robberies should highlight that MPD takes these crimes seriously and we are investigating,” said Gwen Crump, public information officer for the Metropolitan Police Department.
Last year, Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2010, there were sixty-two (62) robberies involving cab drivers as victims.
The police offer a reward of up to $10,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible for any robbery committed in the District of Columbia. Anyone who has knowledge of any unsolved cab robbery or car jacking, should call police at 202-727-9099 or 1-888-919-2746. Additionally, anonymous information may be submitted to the department’s “text tip line” by text messaging 50411.
DeRutter Jones contributed research to this article.