Crackdown on illegal cabs in central London

Metropolitan Police Service and Transport for London tackle illegal cabs and touting 25th February 2009: Twenty-five arrests were made over the weekend following Operation Helvellyn, part of a drive to tackle taxi touts in central London.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the Cab Enforcement Unit, part of the Transport for London (TfL) funded Transport Operational Command Unit (TOCU), targeted illegal cabs during a high visibility operation overnight on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 February 2009.

Uniformed Police Officers and Police Community Support Officers patrolled hotspots to tackle touting and other cab related issues. They also offered advice to members of the public warning them that any minicab journey that is not booked through a licensed minicab operator is illegal, uninsured and unsafe. Bar and club managers whose venues attract high numbers of illegal cabs were also advised on the danger these cabs pose to their customers.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "The safety and security of people travelling around London is a top priority, and during the election I promised to crack down on the illegal touts that put the lives of Londoners and visitors in danger. I want everyone to be able to enjoy a good night out without being preyed upon by these illegal touts as not only can they be dangerous individuals, but their cars can also be uninsured death-traps. We are doing all we can to stop them, and partygoers can make themselves safer by using our fantastic Cabwise text service, which quickly provides the numbers for safe licensed taxi and minicab companies in the area."

Chief Superintendent Joe Royle, Transport Operational Command Unit (TOCU) said: “We are working together to keep London moving safely and committed to driving down crime and the fear of crime even further. Illegal cabs and touting undermine the legitimate cab trade and pose a serious threat to the travelling public. The Transport Operational Command Unit regularly targets policing activity on illegal cabs, and carries out major operations targeting offenders who pose as cab drivers.

“The safety of the public is paramount and I would advise everyone not to get into any vehicle that they have not booked and always book a cab through a reputable PCO licensed operator.”

Steve Burton, TfL’s Director of Community Safety Enforcement and Policing, said: “We are determined to crack down on touting, which can be a cover for more serious crimes like robbery or sexual assault. No one should ever take a minicab without a booking – they are illegal, unsafe and uninsured, and it is just not worth the risk.  To get home safely, take a black cab or book a minicab through a licensed operator.”

Mayor Boris Johnson has taken a tough line on touting, and any licensed driver convicted of touting will now lose their Public Carriage Office (PCO) driver’s licence. He also announced last year that the number of dedicated cab enforcement officers in the Capital would be doubled to 68. The Cab Enforcement Unit has made over 4,500 arrests for touting and other cab-related offences and dealt with another 2,000 offences by way of summons since 2003.

This weekend’s operation also involved TfL’s PCO, checking on the activities of licensed drivers and operators, and the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA) which carried out roadside safety checks of licensed taxis and private hire vehicles in the Strand and in Haymarket. 

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