Soundings

Charles Upton Sahm
Safe Drivers
By taking swift precautions, the Giuliani administration saves livery cab drivers’ lives.
Winter 2001

Critics who have accused Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the NYPD of being insensitive toward minorities couldn't have talked to New York's tens of thousands of livery cab drivers, most of them minorities and immigrants.

Back at the start of last year, a rash of murders had the drivers terrified. Ten of their colleagues died violently during the first five months of 2000—six of them during five particularly bloody weeks in March and April. Livery drivers hadn't died at such a rate since the bleakest days of the Dinkins era, when 139 drivers were murdered between 1990 and 1993.

But where the Dinkins administration dithered without actually doing anything, the Giuliani administration acted swiftly—and effectively—to protect drivers. First, the mayor encouraged the drivers to install bulletproof partitions or video cameras in all livery cabs—and promised that the city would pick up half the cost. To date, over 10,000 of the 30,000 cabs boast new partitions; some 5,000 more now have new cameras.

Next, with the mayor's encouragement, the NYPD moved 300 officers to a new task force charged with stopping the attacks. The department also assigned a phalanx of detectives to investigate the murders, and it established safety zones in each borough, where drivers with suspicious passengers could go for police help. Says New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers chief Fernando Mateo: "By far, the Giuliani administration has done more in the last six months than any other administration has in their entire tenure."

The result of these various initiatives: since May, not one driver has been murdered—thanks to an "insensitive" mayor and police force.

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