Taxi drivers are the primary targets of carjackers, sometimes with fatal consequences. But for some dispatchers it is their own fault for not taking precautions.
There have been numerous cases of carjackings by bandits since the February 23 jail escape, and in a few of the incidents the drivers of the cars were murdered.
Stabroek News spoke with proprietors of some of the taxi services around town and was told that it was negligence on the part of many of the drivers that caused their cars to be hijacked.
The owner of Bassant Taxi Service said since the crime situation had deteriorated he had stopped using his personal vehicles in the taxi business. "I would tell my drivers that their security lies in their own hands and if a job does not look safe, move on."
The man said the fifteen cars that were attached to Bassant's Taxi Service were all owned by the drivers themselves. Asked whether his drivers would accept a job to take someone to Buxton, the man said some of his drivers would go, although under conditions. He noted that the ones who would go were mainly African Guyanese. The taxi service owner disclosed that for some time now some of his drivers were even fearful of passing through Buxton.
He said none of his cars had been hijacked so far. According to him, the fact that the cars attached to his service were not his, meant he allowed his drivers to trust their own judgment in accepting a job.
However, he observed that the attitude of many of his drivers was very unbecoming, noting that some of them did not take instructions. He said he would usually instruct his drivers not to pick up anyone on the road unless they had such instructions from the dispatcher, but many of them would disregard this. He believed that this was the main reason why so many taxi drivers were hijacked last year.
Owner of Fusion Express Taxi Service said his drivers would accept a job to Buxton during the day, but not in the night. He said he had drivers for selected areas, noting that the problematic areas like Buxton, Sophia and Albouys-town were well covered. The drivers of Fusion Taxi are also owners of the cars they operate and the proprietor said that he would from time to time allow them to trust their own judgment on their personal security. Only once was a driver from the taxi service hijacked, and this was last year. The owner said his taxi service offered a 24-hour service and he would not allow himself to be daunted by the crime situation. "I will continue to work 24 hours, it is left up to the drivers to be careful and be on the look out."
Comfort Zone Taxi Ser-vice is by far the most affected since the crime spree started. Proprietress of the service told Stabroek News that on several occasions her business had suffered from carjackings. She said on all of these occasions it was negligence on the part of the drivers that had been the cause. With regard to Buxton, the woman said her drivers were not debarred from going there, but were advised not to enter the village.
"I would tell them to drop the person off on the public road, because you have the army and the police there, but they are not to go into the village."
But even such instructions were sometimes disregarded. The woman cited a case where one of her drivers who blatantly refused to adhere to the instruction went into the village last Saturday and was robbed.
Like the other taxi services all of the drivers attached to Comfort Zone are contractors working with their own cars.
At Comfort Zone drivers are also advised not to pick up anyone from the road, but many still do. However, the owner further disclosed that some of the bandits were now approaching the taxi services at their locations. She mentioned that one Saturday a man went to her business twice to hire a car, but on the second time she detected that he had an ulterior motive and refused to accept his offer. She alleged that on that very night she later learnt that the same man had hijacked a car.
"So you can see the problem we are faced with; you can do your best in preventing these things, but if your drivers are stubborn then what will happen."
She said some of the drivers believed that because the car was their own they had every right to do whatever they felt like, "But when they get hijacked it is me who has to face the public."
Apart from the taxi services there are a number of independent operators, often seen around the Demico area of Stabroek Market, Georgetown Hospital, and Courts on Regent street. One man said he had been working with more care than before. He said he would normally start working from as early as 7:00 am and close off at about 10:00 pm. For him to go to places like Buxton, Sophia and Albouystown, it would have to be daytime. The man said he would do a secret screening of his clients before accepting them into his car, and would insist that the person sit in the front seat.
Asked whether he had seen a newspaper report which claimed that women were now luring taxi drivers into Buxton for them to be robbed, the man told this newspaper that he saw the report and heard about the robbery, but was not able to see the victim. He said it was possible for something like that to happen.
Another taxi operator who works outside of Courts on Regent street, said he did not accept out-of-town jobs in the night. He pointed out that since the the advent of the current crime situation, he had been overly cautious about his personal safety and he seldom accepted a job from a young man. He has been driving for over five years and said he had had many close encounters with suspicious men, but fortunately was never attacked.
He urged his other colleagues in the business to be more careful, adding that they should always take a good look at a passenger before accepting him or her in their car. (Nigel Williams)