D.C. taxi regulators lack safety statistics

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Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley,Metro and Traffic

Regulators in charge of overseeing D.C.'s taxis don't know how many riders complain of harassment in cabs, or even how many cab drivers have been murdered or assaulted, the regulators told a D.C. Council committee Wednesday.

Officials from the DC Taxicab Commission faced a barrage of questions on cab safety from council members the day after a taxi driver was shot and killed in Adams Morgan.

"I should be able to ask you how many operators -- how many cabbies -- have been assaulted over the past five years. And in light of what happened yesterday morning, you should be able to say, 'Well, here are the numbers,' " Councilman Jim Graham, whose ward includes Adams Morgan, told Commission Chairman Ron Linton. "That's elementary information, the absence of which is very troubling."

Linton said the commission receives information on crimes from the city police department but that there is no system to communicate statistics. Linton also couldn't produce the exact number of sexual harassment complaints filed in the last year -- the intended subject of the hearing -- since formal complaints to the agency are still handled by hand.

"We're going to build a computer system in a short period of time," Linton said. "We have plans, and we continue to improve the computerization."

Linton said 740 complaints were filed with the agency in fiscal 2012 -- complaints that include improper fare calculation, failure to pick up a passenger and bad driving, as well as sexual harassment and other offenses.

He previously told a D.C. Council committee that about 120 women per month complained about verbal or physical harassment in taxicabs but said Wednesday that those numbers were an "off-the-top-of-my-head remembrance."

Cab drivers at the hearing defended the safety of their taxis, but activist Jen Corey said her group, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, conducted a survey last month that showed about 30 percent of women who regularly take taxis often don't feel safe.

"We hear countless stories from women who are harassed or threatened every day in taxis in D.C.," Corey said. "It was upsetting today to hear that they're not keeping track of that data at all."

She said she has been left on the side of the road by cabs twice, and one cab driver made an inappropriate comment to her.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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