Taxi drivers seek more protection
TAXI drivers are demanding more protection from the police following escalating levels of violence and attacks from drunken revellers.Just half of the 300 licensed taxis and private hire vehicles in Ipswich are prepared to work beyond 6pm on a Friday and Saturday night, according to the Ipswich Taxi Drivers' Association.
By Danielle Nuttall
TAXI drivers are demanding more protection from the police following escalating levels of violence and attacks from drunken revellers.
Just half of the 300 licensed taxis and private hire vehicles in Ipswich are prepared to work beyond 6pm on a Friday and Saturday night, according to the Ipswich Taxi Drivers' Association.
Many are terrified of picking up drunk clubbers for fear of being assaulted or having their vehicles badly damaged, it has been claimed.
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The association is now calling for police in Suffolk to improve safety for taxi drivers by stepping up response times to encourage more to work the night time shift.
Eric Pearl, secretary of the Ipswich Taxi Drivers Association, said: “We lock our doors and vehicles when we drive around. We don't feel safe at all. Only the young drivers are confident to work.
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“People of my age group feel intimidated of the streets. Common assaults and damage to vehicles has increased vastly in the last six months.
“We have complained for two years and haven't been able to get assistance.”
Mr Pearl's words follow Suffolk's Constabulary's announcement last week it is to make violent crime and alcohol-related offences its number one priority over the next six months.
Police and trading standards officers also revealed on Monday they were to launch an undercover operation to target retailers selling alcohol to minors due to problems associated with binge-drinking.
Insp Mark Lewis, Ipswich central sector commander, said the fear of assault and violence was greater than the actual number reported to police.
“We always try to address the fear of crime and taxi drivers are part of our community in the town centre,” he said.
“We have community police officers who liaise with taxi drivers.
“Patrols are already in place. When the clubs shut in the town at 1am, 2am and 3am, we always have police in those areas at that time and at the three main taxi ranks. It's a commitment we have kept for the last two years now.
“Some of the problems occur when the fare has been taken.”
But Mr Pearl said taxi drivers felt police were not making enough arrests when called to incidents involving drunken passengers.
“They just seem to turn a blind eye. It's certainly not through any lack of interest to be fair, it's just the sheer volume of activity of late night crime they have to deal with,” he added.