by Jacob Boon
In response to the recent string of sexual assaults involving taxi drivers, on Monday Halifax Regional Police took the unusual step of releasing a breakdown of similar incidents that have occurred in the last five years.
“We’re providing context so citizens can make informed decisions about their personal safety, and also outlining the police response so people are aware of what we’re doing to address the issue,” acting public information officer Alicia Joseph writes in a press release.
According to HRP, there have been 12 sexual assaults involving cab drivers since 2012, five of which occurred in 2016. There were three incidents last year, one each in 2014 and 2013 and two cases in 2012.
Six suspects were identified by police in seven of those cases; all of them men between the ages of 30 to 50, who commonly had dark hair and “spoke with an accent.”
Their behaviour fits the pattern of recently reported cases of sexual assault. The driver either has a lone female passenger or waits until only one woman is left in his cab. He often refuses payment for the drive, and asks personal questions or attempts to flatter his passenger.
In nine of the 12 cases, the sexual assaults involved the driver touching the woman “in a sexual manner” and forcibly trying to kiss them.
All of the incidents happened with passengers picked up in the downtown core, most often on weekends during the spring and summer.
Police say the Sexual Assault Investigation Team (SAIT) is thoroughly investigating each file, and beat officers as well as members of the Liquor Enforcement Unit and Quick Response Unit are engaging with downtown patrons and door staff seeking any information on suspicious activity.
Despite those efforts, charges have been laid in only five of the 12 cases. Three other cases are under active investigation, and three were closed due to a “lack of solvability” but can be reopened if new information comes to light. The remaining case was closed at the request of the victim.
Halifax Police recommend calling a taxi instead of hailing one so there’s always a record of which driver has been dispatched, as well as taking note of the roof light number, the driver’s license and their photo. The department also recommends sitting in the back, right-hand seat as it’s the farthest from the driver. Most of the assaults reported to police happened when the passenger is in the front seat.
“We have said this many times but must reiterate once again that the women who have been sexually assaulted have done absolutely nothing wrong and have every right to believe it’s safe to get into a taxi,” Joseph writes. “It’s the perpetrators who are purposely targeting young women accessing their taxis. The offenders must stop this unacceptable and violent behaviour.”
Police are asking anyone with information about these incidents or any others to contact them at 902-490-5016. Anonymous tips can also be sent to Crime Stoppers by calling toll-free 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), submitting a secure web tip at crimestoppers.ns.ca or texting a tip be sending Tip 202 + your message to 274637.