Cumuto, Valencia taxi drivers tell passengers: Take care

Heights of Aripo, Aripo. - ROGER JACOB
Heights of Aripo, Aripo. - ROGER JACOB

With memories of the kidnapping and murder of Andrea Bharatt still fresh in the minds of passengers and taxi drivers, some Arima drivers are urging female passengers to be careful and use only legitimate taxi drivers when travelling.

Newsday visited the Cumuto/Wallerfield taxi stand on Broadway Street, Arima, and spoke to drivers who said they were concerned over the prevalence of private-hire (PH) cars on the stand.

President of the Wallerfield, Cumuto and Little Caura Taxi Drivers' Association Veronica Ali told Newsday she was hurt after hearing about Bharatt's murder and warned female passengers against travelling with drivers they were unfamiliar with.

"On afternoons after work, people just want to get home, and a lot of times they will just get in a PH car, not knowing who they are travelling with.

"It's important to get a driver that is a registered taxi driver with the association. Look at the stickers on the windscreen of the car and make sure that it's a real driver you're travelling with."

Ali said the association had discussions with Arima mayor Casimire Cagney last Wednesday on possible safety measures for passengers.

Another driver, Nero Rampersad, urged passengers to take an additional step to ensure their safety by taking a picture of the driver's licence plate and sending it to a loved one.

"Any legitimate taxi driver shouldn't have a problem with you doing that. I encourage my passengers to do it to make sure they are safe.

"Even in my own car I have my taxi badge with my name and picture displayed. It's important for people to get to know their drivers."

Newsday also spoke to drivers at the Valencia Taxi Stand who called on passengers to be alert when getting into the cars of drivers they did not know.

Driver Saturninus Campo said he did his best to give advice to passengers while on the job.

"A lot of times these days, some passenger would get into a car, and the first thing they do is look down at their cellphone, totally unaware of who is sitting around them.

"If you see a driver or passengers looking suspicious and troublesome, you should avoid that car."

Valencia taxi driver Natasha Russell said she was particularly concerned over the reports as she was a woman herself and had a daughter.

"I've been doing this about 12 years now and I live in Valencia, which is the same route I work, so I take it very seriously.

"It's so frightening, because up to last year there were about four reports of people hiring taxis and the passengers beat up the drivers, take their cars and leave them abandoned up in the Heights of Aripo.

"I have a daughter and I always tell her to travel with a reputable driver."

On Monday reports circulated on social media that a woman had escaped a kidnapping attempt by a taxi driver in Arima. Police comfirmed they were familiar with the incident, butsaid it was a robbery and assault, not a kidnapping.

The woman, who asked to be taken to the e-Teck park in Wallerfield, defended herself by stabbing her attacker.

Police said they have increased their activities since the incident and were working with the taxi drivers to improve safety.

"We've had mobile and foot patrols night and day in different parts of D'Abadie and we have plainclothes police out and about in the different taxi stands keeping a close watch on things."

Police also said they have observed no trend in kidnappings in Arima but were co-ordinating with other units for better monitoring.

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"Cumuto, Valencia taxi drivers tell passengers: Take care"

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